Webbies put on their dancing shoes with Mr. Szanyi at Convocation


Nichola Monroe

Mr. Szanyi demonstrated the choreography on zoom.

A deafening roar rips across campus, a class cheer sounding from the crossroads. It is almost dinner time, and it is still too warm. Legs stick to white foldable chairs. The whole community is gathered, and the mood of crossroads is respectful, peaceful, mildly bored, as students, faculty, and staff embrace a new beginning. This is a typical Webb Convocation. 

But, of course, this year forced a 180, as the 2020 Convocation began online. The ceremony followed its usual procession of speeches, starting with Taylor Stockdale, Head of Schools, and ending with Abbie Oh Arroyo (‘21) and Jake Sharifi (21), student government executives, introducing the school year. But here was one of the biggest changes. 

Something was missing. The raucous, visceral, kind of overwhelming experience of being together in the crossroads was completely altered — the ROAR of class unity was missing, our class cheers impossible. 

But a new surprise graced the traditional procession of speeches at an entirely online Convocation on Zoom. It started when Mr. Stockdale said, “Mr. Szanyi has something special to share with us.” All returning students knew what this meant: we were going to dance.  

And so it began. Michael Szanyi, Head of the Webb Dance Company taught us the moves, before the big finale when dozens of students and faculty in little boxes on a screen rose from their seats, and began the choreography to the groovy beat of September by Earth, Wind, and Fire.  

I know from experience here at Webb that dance brings people together,” said Mr. Szanyi. 

“I think that the dance really contributed a sense of participation and community,” said Emily Berg (‘24). I felt like I was a part of something even though I am isolated in my bedroom at home. It also made me feel more comfortable with the online situation knowing that I wouldn’t feel as alone as I thought I would. 

“I felt that it really gave that in-person sort of feel to convocation,” said Anthony Villalobos (‘22), who danced from his chair during the event. 

The dance created an experience that allowed us to truly feel connected. 

The goal was [also] to shake convocation up a bit,” said Mr. Szanyi, completely in line with his usual reasoning for trying new things. 

“Who could say no to ‘Shall we Dance?’” said Dr. Mark Lauer, a new humanities department faculty. 

“I think that it truly showed this school year will be what you make of it,” said Maya Gutierrez (‘21). “If you truly participate and become immersed in the Webb life even online, it will be a year to remember! 

“After seeing so many participants, I felt overwhelmed with happiness,” said Mr. Szanyi. 

So, thank you Mr. Szanyi, for reminding us that the Webb spirit lives on even without its campus, and for making the best of all the opportunities given to us. 

Mr. Szanyi’s spontaneous dance break during the 2020 Convocation helped bring warmth to an odd and distant community, reviving the Webb sense of community in a challenging situation.