“Unsteady” is a conceptual dance project created to address social issues present among young teens including bullying, body image, and cultural differences. Recipients of Mass Cultural Council’s 2018 Amplify grant, the piece was choreographed entirely by BalletRox dancers and performed at the Wake Up the Earth Festival this year in Jamaica Plain.
Angkor Dance Troupe performs at the Creative Youth Development Showcase hosted last year by Mass Cultural Council and EdVestors.
Last month, for the first time in over a decade, pop legend Janet Jackson launched an open call for dancers to audition for upcoming projects. Using various social media platforms (including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Musical.ly), dancers were encouraged to upload a 30-second video either performing famed Jackson choreography or freestyling to favorite songs by Jackson using hashtag #DanceWithJanet.
One of these submissions will include Boston’s very own OrigiNation. Here they are freestyling to Janet’s “Rhythm Nation”.
Origination, an Afrocentric performing arts organization, produces innovative and dynamic programs which motivate, challenge, and inspire youth of all levels of training to be the best they can be. Offering quality dance, theater arts, public speaking, and African history education programming, special emphasis is placed on teaching young people ages 2 to 18 the importance of self-respect, health, nutrition, civic engagement, education, self-esteem, as well as the extent of African influences on various contemporary art forms.
Youth voice is essential to creative youth development. We’re asking youth leaders to speak to the power of culture as active agents in their own growth:
For 30 years, Angkor Dance Troupe has been a creative youth development leader in Lowell, MA, a city with the second-largest Cambodian population in the United States. Angkor connects families to what it means to be Khmer, gives young people opportunity, and shares beautiful stories of the Khmer people and their cultural heritage.
Linda Sou was there from day one. At the age of three, she began her training with Angkor Dance Troupe and would grow up to become its executive director. She shares what it means to preserve and share a nearly-lost art form.
Ms. Sou was also a lead subject in the documentary film, “Monkey Dance” by Julie Mallozzi which has been screened throughout the United States to raise awareness on intergenerational challenges facing Cambodian youth:.
Year round, Express Yourself introduces and immerses young people into the world of music, dance, theater, and visual art with transformative results. Through artistic expression, youth move from a place of isolation to one of belonging and learn to use a variety of creative means to express themselves in positive and healthy ways. In the process, young people discover and develop inner strengths and gain a greater sense of connection with others. All of this work culminates in the annual Express Yourself showcase presented in collaboration with the Department of Mental Health.
At this year’s 23rd annual showcase, over 200 young people performed at Boston’s Boch Center – Wang Theater. They entertained an enthusiastic audience sporting festive glow stick necklaces and bracelets. Celebrating this year’s “SOUL” theme, the program featured set pieces designed by youth as well as a medley of singing, drumming, and dance performances.
The showcase also featured guest performances by Afro-Brazilian percussionist Marcus Santos, Cammie Griffin and John Angeles of “STOMP”, funk soul, reggae singer Toussaint Liberator, Boston Children’s Chorus, Joyspring Community Chorus (directed by Jonathan Singleton) and West African Master Drummer Joh Camara.
This year for the first time ever, and with support from Mass Cultural Council’s Amplify grant, Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) youth and staff undertook the immense challenge of co-writing and co-producing an original musical.
What came out of that process was El Barrio: Boston’s Latin Quarter, an interactive show featuring the stories of countless immigrants and hard working families that have contributed to the fabric of the community in the Hyde/Jackson Square neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.
“My name is Orlando and I’ll try to say it slow
Puerto Rican boy and my flow runs this show
Raised without a father, just me and my brother and my mother
who every day just keep getting stronger.”
Orlando is a is one of the lead character and was played by Victor, one of HSTF’s youth dancers.
In a true show of Amplify’s spirit, Victor and his peers from HSTF’s Ritmo en Acción Afro-Latin dance team co-choreographed original pieces for the musical, derived from bachata, merengue, salsa, and Latin-infused hip-hop. For the first time, Ritmo dancers collaborated extensively with their peers on the Music and Theater teams to produce this musical, using their neighborhood as a moving stage. Ritmo dancers, working with Program Coordinator Audrey Guerrero and Resident Artist Angeline Egea, choreographed steps to original songs written and performed by youth musicians, and followed stage direction and cues from youth on the Theater team.
Hundreds of community members took part in matinee and evening performances, traveling through the show with performers. Through dance and through the arts, this young group shared the history of their community, while growing outside of their primary artistic disciplines and leading this exuberant demonstration of the power of creative youth development. HSTF youth and staff eagerly await the next opportunity to showcase the stories, values, and potential that defines their community.
Name: Olga Marchenko
Title: Program Manager, Ballet Instructor
Artistic Genre: Dance
Years in the Field: 8
What do you do at BalletRox?
I am responsible for different aspects of BalletRox’s program, including but not limited to curriculum design, student enrollment, student and program evaluation, production of recitals, and website development. As a ballet instructor I teach all levels of ballet classes and choreograph for recitals and performances.
Why do you do what you do?
The mission of BalletRox is dear to my heart with its main objective to expose Boston youth to dance and opportunities for mastery and performance, to which they would not otherwise have access, giving them discipline and a supportive community to succeed in life.
What comes easiest to you in this work?
Communication with students, especially our oldest group (12-18 years olds). I believe in partnership between a student and a teacher, where I see myself more as an older friend, who knows just a bit more and likes to share her experiences with my younger friends. In turn, they know that there is a time for fun but when there is work to do they become professionals and work their hardest!
How do you blow off steam?
For me it is taking a simple walk in the park or forest on a sunny day. Having music on in the background comes in second. And of course, reading.
What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I’m an oldies person most of the time. Anything from Billie Holiday to the Beach Boys. At times however, I could sway from hip hop to classical and somewhere in the middle with some lounge music.
What are you currently reading?
Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic. A very inspirational autobiographical book about a person born without limbs, neither legs nor arms. Despite his physical limits he not only leads a full life, but encourages others to not give up hope in any circumstances.
This post was adapted from the a piece by Kim Phan in the Mass Health and Human Services Blog.
“Voice What Matters”, the banner above the stage read, and that is exactly what the youth of the Mass Department of Youth Services (DYS) did. From paintings to sculptures, to videos, songs and dance, young people showed who they are and what matters to them. This year the DYS held the 4th Annual “Share Your Art, Share Your Voice!” Statewide Youth Showcase on June 16 at the Paramount Center at Emerson College.
The motivation for the investment in the arts by DYS came about because, as Peter Forbes, Department of Youth Services Commissioner, said, “Many of the youth are not happy to be with us (DYS), so we have to try to figure out what they’re interested in and use that interest as a hook for the change process. Many of the youth have unbelievable artistic talent, but they often don’t have exposure to the arts to see that, so this is something the agency put forward.”
The showcase kicked off with a youth art exhibition, with the proceeds going directly to the artists. Walking through the exhibit, excited chatter of the attendees could be heard as they eyed the pieces they were going to purchase. “They’re going fast,” said one onlooker. “I know they always do,” said another.
A self-portrait on display that had sold within 15 minutes of the exhibit opening was entitled “Purple Stands for Loyalty.” The artist, Kevin, wrote in his description, “I feel good that I did this self-portrait. Purple is my favorite color.”
Another artist wrote this about her painting “Look Closely”: “Pretty much everyone has a different perspective, a different eye. For this, trees make me feel calmed down, like I’m in a forest alone.”
Following the exhibit, performing artists hit the stage. The performances, while entertaining, also highlighted the realities of life. A youth named Xavier gave a powerful rendition of the “Hath not a Jew Eyes?” speech from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, a performance which had the audience in thunderous applause. A story by a youth named Dion described the struggle of reality vs. perception, and what he called the “Levels to this Frontin’” meaning what the world sees on the outside is not always what it is truly like on the inside. A group of girls – Jessica, Clarisine, Cheyenne, Zorelys, and Irianis – performed a stepping routine with rhythms that resonated throughout the theater.