The Sixth-Grade Wheel Is Back in the Barker

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Evan Sluiters

The sixth graders in the dance wheel rock out to John Mellencamp’s “Rockin’ in the USA.”

The sixth-grade students have traditionally performed in the Barker Performing Arts Center (BPAC) every quarter, but since COVID-19 hit, everything has been different. The wheel performance – a quarterly fine arts program performed by sixth graders – is one such production that was snuffed out by the pandemic. Instead of a live performance last year, the wheel was virtual and comprised of videos in the students’ various arts disciplines: dance, drama, music, and visual art.

However, this year, it’s back in the BPAC.

Sixth grader Ashlyn Aninowsky rocks out with her classmates during the  dance wheel performance in October.

We are planning an in-person performance on December 15,” said Mr. Andrew Winters, who teaches the music portion of the wheel. But this doesn’t mean that students will go back to performing normally. “The Wheel classes will continue to follow the school’s COVID protocols,” he said.

As a result, the first-semester wheel performance will be held in the BPAC, but seating will be restricted to sixth-grade parents only, and the seating will be limited to only 100 people, meaning parents must RSVP in order to attend. In addition, for those parents and members of the TBS community who cannot attend, the performance will be live-streamed on the morning of December 15.

Another difference is that there will only be two wheel performances this year – one each semester – as opposed to the customary four (one each quarter). Still, part of the wheel will be virtual like last year as Winters’ music students will not be playing their guitars live, but will be pore-recorded and have their videos inserted into the program.

Just like Winters, Fine Arts Department Chair Ms. Nancy McAllister is a vital part of the wheel as she teaches visual art. The students’ artwork is usually displayed on stage by the students themselves or hung on the walls of the BPAC, but this year it will be shared with the live audience via a slideshow on the BPAC’s screen. In addition, those watching the livestream from home will see the presentation embedded in the live video.

“[The wheel] is a vitally important middle school experience that exposes all of the sixth graders to art, dance, drama, and music,” said McAllister.

Sixth graders perform “Blowing in the Wind” by Bob Dylan in their music wheel class which was recorded on video.

For the students, the wheel offers them exposure to artistic disciplines they may not have otherwise tried, and it allows them to interact and create with their peers.

I was in dance and I most enjoyed dancing with my friends,” said sixth grader Branson Smith. Because the first semester’s wheel theme is America, he and his fellow dancers will rock out to John Mellencamp’s “R.O.C.K in the U.S.A” for their dance number.

The students are also excited to be performing live on the BPAC stage.

“For dance, I would rather perform live because then my mom and family can see me in person,” said Smith.

Because faculty and students will not be allowed to attend the live performance, they and anyone who is interested can visit www.thebenjaminschool.org/live on December 15 at 8:15 a.m. to see the sixth graders take to the stage for the semester one wheel.