An Interview with the Dr. Harriton Choreographers: Isabel Silverman and Hailey Newman


February 24th might sound like an average day to most, but to the Harriton community, this date means much more than that. It marks our high school’s 16th Dr. Harriton; a school-wide show that features Harriton students as contestants in a battle of talent, humor, and dancing. Yes—you heard it here—there is dancing. Lots of dancing. Enough dancing to make you want to go home and sign up for a hip-hop dance class. And these entertaining dances are specially choreographed by the best of Harriton’s dance community: Hailey Newman and Isabel Silverman. These two students have put in a sizeable amount of effort and care to ensure that this is the greatest Dr. Harriton yet, and I had the opportunity to learn more about this choreographing experience from an interview with the two dancers.


The Harriton Banner: Why did you decide to choreograph Dr. Harriton this year?


Isabel: I decided to choreograph for Dr. Harriton this year because I had an amazing experience last year. Forming a big bond, with a small group of people, in a large school, is very comforting. I also love the whole idea of the event. Raising money for charity is very fulfilling. 


Hailey: Last year Isabel raved about how amazing being a part of Dr. Harriton was, and asked me if I wanted to co-choreograph with her next year… Isabel and I had grown up at the same studio for years and had the experience of co-choreographing already among our other co-captains for the Harriton Dance Team. Needless to say, we have insane chemistry and work well together creatively. Still, there was an interview process that I had to go through, so it wasn’t certain that Isabel and I would be selected as the choreographers.


THB: What in your life do you feel has prepared you for this choreographing job?


IS: My strong passion for dance, since the age of five, has truly prepared me to take on the choreographer role for Dr. Harriton. Next year, I will be pursuing a B.F.A. degree in Dance at The Ohio State University. I love sharing with others my love of dance, and teaching them how to dance as well. 


HN: Dance has always played a major role in my life…At my summer overnight camp, I teach girls routines that I self-choreograph, and I am also a captain of the Harriton Dance Team. From these experiences, I have learned a lot about choreographing and how to best put together a performance.


THB: How do you split up the work of choreographing?


IS: When we choreograph, we don’t necessarily “split up” the work. We meet on the weekends and work together. We play the music and ideas come rushing through us. 


HN: Everything we do is very collaborative and 50/50. We would meet for many hours on the weekends to choreograph. The process is pretty simple: we play the music over and over and feel out the beat and experiment with moves. When we see something we like, we just roll with it and go from there.


THB: How have you been able to balance your school and extracurriculars with Dr. Harriton? Have you found that to be a struggle or is this something that you have prioritized?


IS: Since I choreographed for the show last year, I have learned how to manage my time. I get most of my work done throughout the school day, as I have to go to dance right after Dr. Harriton practices, and I do not get home until later in the evening. 


HN: Before the practices started, I was a little worried about how I would balance my workload with Dr. Harriton. But really, it wasn’t bad at all. I try to capitalize on getting my work done at school anyway, so there typically isn’t that much I have to do when I get home from practice. Despite the amount of work, I still show up every day to practice.


THB: What has the experience of preparing for Dr. Harriton been like so far? 


IS: Preparing for this year’s Dr. Harriton has been so incredible. The contestants bring their energy to every practice, and it makes my job as a choreographer very worthwhile. There have been so many moments, over the past months, where we were all laughing so hard that it hurt. Every day, I look forward to the practices after school because this group is truly the best, and there is never a dull moment with them. 


HN: For the first two months of practice, we taught them four different dances. Essentially, they had a week and a half to nail each routine before starting on the next one. To put that into perspective, the girls on Dance Moms would have one week to learn each routine before performing every weekend. The ten boys with basically no prior dance experience were learning routines at the same pace as star competitive dancers. Though we have been in a serious time crunch, I have learned that you cannot underestimate these boys. They come in every day, ready to learn, and give it their all in preparation for the show.


THB: How is the Dr. Harriton choreographing experience different from anything you have done before?


IS: Choreographing for Dr. Harriton is a very different experience from anything else I have done relating to dance since most of my “students” have never danced before. So, when coming up with choreography, I think about what moves would not only be easy to learn but would also look good in the dance. However, I do enjoy giving the contestants a challenge! 


HN: Being the choreographer for Dr. Harriton is a very unique experience…Past experiences I had with choreographing had been for people with prior dance experience, many of them who either dance competitively or at an advanced level. Choreographing for 10 boys with very little dance experience prior was definitely a challenge, but it has been super rewarding seeing them develop their skills and bring the moves to life.


The Dr. Harriton contestants and officers are grateful to have such hardworking choreographers to transform the show into something extra special. Friday the 24th is definitely going to be a night you will not want to miss!