WESTFIELD, NJ – Jefferson Elementary School students danced, twirled and grooved to a variety of pop music at the school’s 17th annual Jefferson Jubliee, which was held in front of a sold-out crowd at Westfield High School Saturday and Sunday.
“The thing that I love about Jubilee is it’s our largest fundraiser and it features our children,” said Principal Jeanette Munoz, who also took to the stage with a group of nearly 20 teachers performing to a rendition of “Singing in the Rain” mashed with “Umbrella” by Rihanna.
Money raised from the show will most likely go towards an addition of the school's playground, Munoz said.
Jubilee is a Jefferson tradition that caps off months of planning by parent volunteers and after-school practices for the students, who chose a song to dance to from a given selection of music based on grade level. Several parents choreograph the dance for their assigned group and teach the moves to their students during weekly rehearsals.
“They work hard. It’s eight weeks of practices in the hallways,” said Ellen Oliveri, a senior producer along with Kara Rever. Both producers thanked Munoz for her support of the production.
Like other school shows in the area, Jubilee is a popular way for kids to mingle with their peers, experience performing in front of others and just have fun.
Fifth grader Anna Bazsa, performing in her fourth and final Jubilee, took part in "This is My Dance Floor" with a group of friends and in the special fifth grade dance. She will miss doing the show when she moves on to Edison Intermediate School in the fall, she said.
"Well, I sort of felt sad but at the same time happy because I'm going to have good experiences or better ones at Edison," she said after the show Sunday.
“I like that most of my friends do Jubilee,” said Gabriel Pastore, a third grader who performed in the edited version of “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
He had wanted to dance to “Thrift Shop” long before rehearsals started in January.
“I just think it’s a really good song, and I thought there would be some really good choreography,” Gabriel said.
Roughly 400 Jefferson children participated in this year’s show, which had the theme “Movin’ & Groovin.’” One moms group and one dads group also performed. The show ended with included a slide show and a special finale by the school’s graduating fifth graders.
Gabriel’s mother, Adrian, was one of five parents who directed 22 students in the “Thrift Shop” routine. Adrian Pastore also helped direct her daughter Sienna’s first grade group, which danced to “Wings” by Little Mix. She enjoys seeing children she’s directed around the school and town.
“I really like getting to know all the kids,” Pastore said.
Sienna, like her brother, was excited about her song choice.
“The song has a lot of beat, and it’s really fun to dance to,” she said.
Pastore and her husband, Mike, made Jubilee a family affair by joining the moms and dads dance as well.
Christine Bradley, a mother of two boys and a junior producer for Jubilee with Jenn Czarnecki, believes the show is a good way for kids to get to know more children in their grade.
“They get to meet other kids that they don’t go to class with,” she said.
In addition to the parents who directed each song, parent groups also designed scenery, put together the playbill, organized ticket sales, worked backstage and served as ushers and door monitors. Jessica Brooks and Toni Deis produced the merchandise. Some Jefferson alumni also returned to help at the show, and a group of high school students were in charge of sound and lighting. Maintenance workers at Jefferson and the high school opened the buildings and helped parents set up.
“It takes a village to put this whole thing together,” said Oliveri.
Munoz praised the parents for their dedication. She has participated in the teacher’s number since coming to Jefferson 12 years ago.
“The children are so excited to see you perform,” the principal said. “It’s something the teachers love to do, to give back to the kids.”