“You all have tickets. We’re boarding this plane. We’re going on a trip around the world.”
This is how Outreach Manager Quynn Johnson introduced our spring Motion Expressions concert on Tuesday morning to an audience of over 300 elementary school-aged children. The spring show, Dance Around the World, brought kids and their teachers from Center City PCS Trinidad, Martin Luther King Elementary, Miner Elementary, Orr Elementary, Payne Elementary, SAIL PCS, Tyler Elementary, and Washington Yu Ying PCS to the Atlas Performing Arts Center.
United States: Our journey started off in the United States, represented by Resident Hip Hop Company, DCypher Dance. Already, heads in the audience were bobbing and grooving. An amazed “WOAH” rose from the crowd when Namaad Jackson did his back flip – always a crowd pleaser. Then DCypher led a rhythm game, where everybody learned a clapping rhythm and then put them all together into a polyrhythm.
India: Six dancers wowed the crowd with the brightly colored embroidered costumes, bling, and charm of Bollywood. Students learned that this was a dance from the northern part of India called Rajasthan. “Sthan” or ”stan” at the end of a lot of country names means “land of.”
Guinea: The Kuku is a dance that Guinean fisherwomen do to celebrate when they have a good catch. Brother Malari on his djembe drum and Mama Lesina brought about 20 kids on stage to learn parts of the dance, while the rest of us could do just the arm motions in our seats.
Ireland: Shannon Dunne explained that Ireland is a cold, wet country so you want to be inside, and houses were small, so you performed close to one another. With a concertina accompaniment, she and Agi Kovacs performed a rhythmic duet of Sean nos, a cousin of tap dance.
Egypt: Caroline Besley shimmied and shook with belly dance moves that really dazzled the kids. Volunteers were brought on stage to wear a hip scarf and learn some hip movements: an isolation, a figure eight, and a shake. Hip isolations turned into full-body wiggling, but the students had the spirit of the movement down.
Venezuela: Two dancers and three drummers took us to Venezuela with a folk dance and song that Mesi Walton sang in Spanish. The audience got to learn and use Spanish phrases to support the performers: “Que Baile!” to the dancers, “Lo Cuero!” to the drummers, and “Cheste!” as a general expression of support.
Back to the US: Our journey around the world brought us back to the US with DCypher again, who brought up some more students to the stage. “These dancers are really brave, coming on stage,” commended Nikki Gambhir, as the students went through the process of learning, rehearsing, and performing a few Hip Hop moves just like professional dancers. DCypher’s closing performance had kids dancing in their seats and singing along.
As the students filed out of the Sprenger Theater and back onto the buses we had waiting for them, we asked what they thought about the show:
- “I like the Indian part.”
- “They had a blast,” laughed a teacher.
- “My favorite part was the Egypt.”
- “That was the best show I’ve ever seen!”