PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Jefferson High School’s dance program recently made history as the first school to have two of their pieces place in a national competition.

Jefferson High senior John Kearney performed in and choreographed his piece, “You’ll Be Happy,” at the National High School Dance Festival held in Pittsburgh in March.

“It’s about my family’s life during the pandemic at that time and how we were struggling quite a bit, and how we overcame that,” Kearney said.

Jefferson’s Eli Bryan also choreographed a piece called “Altitude Sickness.”

“It’s really about growing up and catching challenges head on, even if you don’t know if you’re going to come out on top. It’s really about knowing that the only way out is through,” Bryan explained.

Both Kearney and Bryan’s pieces were two of 11 chosen to be performed in the Outstanding Student Choreography Showcase out of nearly 200 submissions from American and Canadian schools.

Bryan’s piece received the third honorable mention and Kearney’s piece received the highest honor of Outstanding Student Choreography.

  • Portland, OR Jefferson High School dance team gets national honors
  • Portland, OR Jefferson High School dance team gets national honors

Never have there been two pieces selected from the same school asked to perform in this showcase, let alone one school snagging two of the top honors.

Now home, they’re preparing for their spring concert under the guidance of Artistic Director Steve Gonzales.

“This is the show that inspired me and others to become a Jefferson dancer, so I really recommend everyone come and see it,” Kearney said.

The concert is one way they raise money for the nationally recognized program — something they have to do with only some funding from the district. Fortunately, the community has been nothing but supportive.

“We spend so much time raising our own funds and working hard to inspire the community to help us keep going because we have not been able to rely on public funding for so long,” Bryan said.

Tickets are available for the spring concert, which will be held April 20-22 at Portland’s Newmark Theatre.