Among the sea of students lounging in plastic lawn chairs, returning from Town and Country and enjoying their few minutes of freedom, one freshman weaves through the crowd, completely entranced by the music blasting from his headphones, as he dances away the last minutes of lunch.
Anthony McFadden has found one of the most simple yet original ways to make his mark on the Paly community.
He has decided to take up dancing on the Quad during lunch breaks.
“I started dancing the second month of school,” McFadden said. “I was just like, ‘I want to try this.’ The first time I danced, I had my earplugs in, took off my backpack and I started.”
Listening mainly to hip hop, specifically Usher, Chris Brown or anything with a “good dance beat,” McFadden dances by himself as much of the Paly community watches with curiosity. He combines several styles of dance, including popping, jerking and breaking to create his own specific style of movement. Though McFadden seems to stay in his own little world, he often receives reactions and responses from other students.
“Sometimes I’m embarrassed, and I can hear people [over the music from] my ear buds saying ‘Go Anthony,’ and I’m like, ‘You don’t even know me,’” McFadden said.
McFadden credits his older sister for being the original proponent of his dancing talent.
“My sister taught me how to dance because I was very stiff. I couldn’t do any moves at all, and my sister unstiffened me [by teaching] me a little bit,” McFadden said.
McFadden’s passion for dance shines through in his performances, which have received wide recognition.
“He’s an excellent dancer and seems to have genuine happiness behind his movements,” freshman Catherine Yu said.
“I’m happy for the dude,” junior William Queen said. “He’s doing what he wants to do and doesn’t care about what other people think.”
McFadden’s impromptu performances on the quad have been well-received by many students.
McFadden’s performances have also provided a way for Anthony to temporarily escape from the academic pressure Paly places on its student population.
McFadden explains how his love for dancing motivates him to dance whether he feels pressured or not.
“I just love dancing,” McFadden said. “It makes me feel good, [and] it makes others feel good around me. I’ll have hard work at school, and then when I dance at lunch it just feels good. I like dancing for others, but I [also] like dancing for myself.”
McFadden struggled socially in previous years and never felt able to freely express himself or his talent.
“Before I knew dancing was my form of expression, I had a lot of anger inside of me,” McFadden said.
His negative experiences with bullying at past schools often discouraged him from fostering his passion for movement and dance.
“I had a bad first half of middle school,” McFadden said. “In sixth and seventh grade I was in Special Education classes, and everyone made fun of me because I was in Special Education. I learned from my past years that I’m a good kid. No one [understood] that I’m a good kid, [and] they just [took] advantage that I’m weak.”
Despite the hardship he faced in middle school, McFadden still recalls that he had some good memories in middle school, when he danced for the sixth grade dance.
“[The] sixth grade [dance] was the bomb for me,” McFadden said. “Everyone saw me dancing, and they were like ‘Anthony I’ve never seen you dance like that.’ A lot of people don’t know I dance a lot because I don’t show it that much.”
However, after transitioning to Paly, McFadden realized that students encouraged him to continue sharing his talents.
“Kids that sit by ‘The Wall’ all have opened up to me, and I’m just like ‘this is weird,’” McFadden said. “It used to be the other way around. I used to be picked on.”
McFadden’s experience at Paly has fortunately been unlike anything he has ever experienced at his previous middle school.
“I was afraid, but when I got here I was like, ‘Oh this is great place.’”