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Dream Big, Dance Hard — Backstage at the Performing Arts Festival
Lauren Anderson – February 21, 2017
Tomorrow evening, hundreds of Success Academy families and staff will pack into the auditorium at SA Union Square as 170 scholars go through their final stretching routines and vocal warmups backstage. After months of preparation and anticipation, scholars from all 41 SA schools will dance, sing, and act the night away at Success Academy’s annual network-wide Festival of the Performing Arts.
As a dance teacher at SA Bronx 4, I wanted to create a performance that was not only memorable, but would also allow every one of my 11 scholars to participate fully and feel proud of their work. Our piece, titled “I Have a Dream,” was the result of five weeks of rehearsing once a week, focusing on every step, kick, leap, and getting it all down in time to the music.
As a dance teacher at SA Bronx 4, I wanted to create a performance that was not only memorable, but would also allow every one of my 11 scholars to participate fully and feel proud of their work
The music I chose — “Freedom” by Beyoncé and “Symphony of Brotherhood,” by Miri Ben-Ari — perfectly embodied the spirit of equality and opportunity, a theme that for me was a timely and optimistic response to the tumultuous political climate in our country right now. With its message of hope, Ben-Ari’s song with Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is particularly powerful for a dance performance. I wanted our scholars — and our audience — to take away the message to never give up and to fight for their dreams.
My second and third grade dancers are at different levels, and I work with them individually to master each movement. During the early rehearsals, I had to identify roles for scholars that matched their skills and personalities. Beyonce’s upbeat, fast-paced song required a dancer that had conviction in his movements and a kind of roughness — and Amir fit the bill. Cameron, a more fluid and graceful dancer who’s trained in a modern style, could handle the slower pace of Ben-Ari’s song, while Maylee, who has an incredible level of energy and personality in her movement, was a perfect addition to the first, faster-paced piece.
Tomorrow when the lights dim for our performance, you’ll see Cameron on stage, flipping channels on the television and hearing only bad news. When he flips it one last time, my 11 dancers will burst onto stage through a cardboard replica television set as the music begins. This dramatic entrance will symbolize them spreading their message of equality and hope to the public, even as they are being bombarded by bad news in the media.
Tomorrow night, I will gather my scholars from their stretching circle backstage. I will give a pre-performance pump up speech as I always do. I may have led this journey from vision to execution but now the scholars take control.
Hope to see you there! Here are all the details:
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
6:30 – 7:30 PM
SA Union Square Auditorium
40 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003
In the slideshow below, two of my dancers and two of my colleagues offer their views on dance at Success Academy!
Cameron Bishop Clark
Third grader, SA Bronx 4
“Dance makes me feel happy. You get to jump around a lot. I like all the movements, I like hip-hop the most, and African dance. I don't feel nervous, and I feel that I know what I’m doing because I think I’m a good dancer and I remember all the steps. This year for my school’s winter show, I did a Broadway-themed dance. In first grade, I did a dance competition and I won a trophy. In dance, you get to express yourself and send people messages.”
Third grader, SA Bronx 4
“What I like about dance is the movement. My favorite dance style is hip-hop and I like the type of songs we do. When I perform, I feel kind of nervous because I’m in front of a lot of people. But then I feel excited, because I know everyone is going to be proud of me. Last year, we performed a dance to the song “Glory,” and it was really peaceful song in some ways, but it also had hip hop in it, too. I think that was a good combination. For the Winter Showcase, we are doing a song called “Freedom” and we are trying to share an important message during Black History Month — that everyone deserves to be equal.”
MS Drama Teacher and Content Lead, SA Harlem Central
"The piece we will be performing in the Festival of the Performing Arts was created in memory of Brandy Vela, a Texas teen from my hometown who made international news after she took her own life after the relentless cyberbullying from her classmates. We wanted our work to be universal and to confront the difficult topic of bullying but also to inspire others to find the light and strength within themselves. As an educator, it is my firm belief that theatre for youth should never be scared to tackle heavy subject matter or controversial social topics."
Dedrick Lee Anthony
Lead Dance Teacher, SA Harlem 2
“I want to teach my scholars to be full OUT with FEELING in whatever they do. Doesn't matter if they become a dancer, singer, doctor, or lawyer...I want them to give 200% in whatever they do! I don't want them to be ordinary...I want them to be EXTRAORDINARY!"