Outreach: What do the Faces of Dance look like?

Our 2010 Step Ahead program came to a close on Friday night with a spirited concert at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. After training and rehearsing for seven weeks, the teens delivered their very own show, “Faces of Dance,” to a theater packed full of supportive family and friends. The teens were in charge of all aspects of the show, from designing the tickets and program to deciding the show order and recording the pre-show speech.

JOMDC teachers choreographed most of the pieces, tailoring them to show off the teens’ strengths: Afro-Jazz with Tyrone Murray, Afro-Modern with Taurus Broadhurst, Jazz with Vincent Williams, Liturgical Ballet with Tammy Hurt, Hip Hop with Josh Davis, and Modern with Zahra Carpenter. Members of Step Afrika! (our fellow Arts Partner at the Atlas) set two a capella pieces; Giani Clarkson and Ryan Johnson proved that the rhythms in their stepping and tapping choreography was music in and of itself. This year’s West African piece, set by Lesina Martin and Mahiri Keita of Farafina Kan and always a highlight, was accompanied by an all-female line of drummers.

Rounding out the show was a solo choreographed and performed by Torren Cooper. Seeing this young African-American man dance to the lyrics of “Waiting on the World to Change,” ending with his fist up in the air, was the most poignant moment of the evening. Torren has been with Step Ahead for three summers now and is off to Millersville University in the fall.

Interspersed between the pieces, during costume changes, audio voiceovers filled the darkness of the auditorium. The teens talked about Step Ahead, how much they had learned, how nervous they were to perform, and how the experience fit into their identity: “I am a brother, a script writer, and a dancer.”

What do the faces of dance look like, then? They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are girls, some are boys. They look like someone who has never stepped into a dance studio until seven weeks ago, and they look like someone who has several years of training under her belt. They look like someone who lights up as soon as he’s on stage or someone who’s apprehensive until she finds her groove in tap. They are all faces worthy of applause.