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New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.
New Victory Teaching Artist Spica Wobbe at a Puppetry Kids Week
This week is National Arts in Education Week, a week devoted to promoting the value of the arts—dance, music, theater, literature, design and visual arts—as core academic subjects in schools. At The New Victory, we believe that the performing arts have the power to spark young imaginations and give kids the tools for learning in all disciplines. As the largest provider of live performance to NYC schools and after-school programs, we partner with more than 160 schools and serve over 40,000 students each year. Our New Victory Education Partner schools enjoy $2 student tickets, free classroom workshops, and online resource guides and professional development for educators interested in incorporating the arts into their lesson plans.

We also provide opportunities for kids and their families to explore the performing arts by learning new art skills inspired by the performances they see on the New Victory stage. These public engagement activities—from at-home Family Activities and pre-show lobby activities to Family Workshops and Kids Weeks—enhance kids' experiences as both audience members and future patrons of the arts. And, of course, they have lots of fun!New Victory Teaching Artist Liz Bolick at a pre-show Arts Express

In honor of National Arts in Education Week, we wanted to share some thoughts and stories from our New Victory Teaching Artists—our "boots on the ground," as it were. This ensemble of 55 arts educators possesses a diverse range of skills, including acting, playwriting, music, puppetry, hip hop, street theater, circus arts and contemporary dance. Together they develop comprehensive explorations of the art forms and themes presented onstage. Our Teaching Artists work in classrooms as part of the Education Partnership Program, and they also lead many of our Public Engagement programs. If you've ever come early or stayed late at the New Vic to participate in a fun activity, you've probably met at least one of them.

So, why do our TAs do what they do? We asked what inspires them and what kind of impact they believe they have. Here are some of our favorite answers.

How do you share your art forms with students and families?

"My circus, clowning and physical comedy skills create excitement, fun and lots of laughter.  Kids are fascinated by my antics and tricks and want to play! They want to experience the skills they have seen in the theater, so I perform and demonstrate these skills up close and help them get hands-on experience."

"My primary art form is movement theater, though I work professionally in acting, directing, design and dance. I get to share this work with students and families through workshops, public performances and edu-taining at special events. There is nothing greater for me than watching a family learn, explore, and laugh through the arts."

Teaching Artist WT McRae at a Circus Kids Week; Teaching Artist Drew Petersen and Education Staffer Renata Melillo Townsend at a Theater Kids Week

What does your engagement with students and families add to their theatergoing experiences? Why is it important?

"Teaching young people and their families art form-based lessons offers them a frame of empathy for the work the performers are doing. We often hear families say, 'I had no idea how challenging this is!' I think this makes them feel more connected to the person they will be watching onstage." 

"Too many kids in too many schools are having their arts programs cut. Many kids learn more physically—they need to move and play. Music, circus, dance, theater and puppetry—all art forms—help reach students in different and deeper ways."

"Hands-on experience with the form gives students and families permission and the necessary language to confidently share their opinions. For instance, 'I loved that show, because they used this artistic principle we were learning about,' or, 'I am glad I saw it, but it wasn't for me because...' That discourse is important."

"Artistry needs to be passed down to younger generations. Allowing kids to experience live theater and to meet living, breathing artists shows them the possibilities that exist to become artists themselves." 

TA Josh Matthews at a pre-show Arts Express; TA Skyler Sullivan at the Family Benefit

What's your favorite memory of a kid you've taught?

"We were in a 2nd grade classroom facilitating a workshop in which kids played with marionettes and acted out fairytales. One kid exuberantly raised his hand and asked if the three little pigs would be in the show. We explained that the show was the story of Sleeping Beauty and that there were no pigs. Insistent, the kid told us that he had a pig puppet at home and would be happy to lend it out to Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company for their show." 

"In the middle of a workshop for The Light Princess last year, one little boy grabbed my arm during the first activity and said 'This is really fun!'  A few minutes later we were telling secrets when he told me 'people think I'm really smart…but I just listen.'"

"One very withdrawn 3rd grade boy almost never spoke. He barely looked anyone in the eye, and some of his teachers considered him a "trouble-maker" for being so distant. For a classroom performance, he chose to do a gymnastic streamer solo.  When I asked him what music he would like, he asked for rock 'n' roll. He choreographed and performed a totally amazing piece to a song by The Rolling Stones, which made the audience go wild. He focused, worked really hard on his steps and did a spectacular job. It was stunning and incredibly brave."
Teaching Artists Margot Fitzsimmons and Shelah Marie leading classroom workshops at an Education Partner school
Contributions from WT McRae, Liz Bolick and Renata Melillo Townsend
Posted by Zack Ramadan
July 7, 2015

5, 6, 7, 8 and Teach!


Victory Dance starts this week! Along with the action onstage, there is also an underlying educational component to Victory Dance—4,000 kids from 37 schools, summer camps and youth programs are attending Victory Dance in the coming weeks, and our New Victory Teaching Artists will be helping to give these kids their fill of dance before, during and after the performances. Here’s dancer and Teaching Artist Penelope McCourty to tell you more!
 
Illustration of children dancing, in the style of Matisse's "Dance."
What is Victory Dance, and what is your role?

Victory Dance is a fantastic, curated dance season at The New Victory, currently in its second year. The cool thing about Victory Dance is that it’s filled with some of the most exciting dance companies, dancers and choreographers who call New York City their home!

I was on the curriculum team developing our pre- and post-show workshops, which I’m also bringing into the summer schools, camps and youth programs all over the city with my Teaching Artist colleagues. In addition, I’m co-hosting the Education performances of Victory Dance, and I’m facilitating the Talk-Backs at the public shows.

How do New Victory Teaching Artists teach dance?

We create lesson plans that give young movers the opportunity to explore what they already know about moving their bodies through space and time, and we direct these explorations through the lens of the dances they will see on stage. So, if students are going to see Victory Dance, in our workshops they’ll explore ways of traveling up, down and all around. They’ll also create choreography based on words that were an inspiration from one of the dance pieces in the program.

Illustration of a young ballerinaWhen teaching during the school year, we know that we are getting students before a math test or right after lunch, in the middle of their schedules. Their days are filled with so many goals they have to reach. So when we Teaching Artists go into a classroom, we offer the kids an opportunity to see their day differently, to learn something in a new way and make connections to the many other things going on in their lives. We are basically a one-two punch of exploration and fun!

In the summertime, during Victory Dance, the focus shifts to learning in a more exploratory, process-based way. Their schedules are little looser, so there’s more room for what we’re doing—more room for them to really explore what it means to be a dancer or choreographer, or a performer of any kind, and more room for reflecting on how learning the skills of an artist can help them achieve their many goals during the school year.

What can kids gain from learning about dance?

So many skills for being a citizen in this world are taught through dance: academic skills, cognitive skills and social skills! In dance, whether you're in a group or working alone, you learn how to organize your body in space and time, which basically means that you gain a clearer sense of spacial awareness. You learn to develop creative ways of solving problems. You learn about commitment, and you develop skills for persevering in the face of a challenge. Working collaboratively, budgeting time… the list is endless! The development of all these skills creates a climate for confidence to soar.

What makes Victory Dance special?

As a young dancer, it was very meaningful for me to see live performance. It clued me in to what I could potentially achieve if I worked hard enough. Victory Dance gives students who may not get any other opportunity to see live dance for free! It’s a chance for them to see fantastic artistry in practice in their own hometown. There is such diversity in the art form, and the companies performing on the New Victory stage really reflect that. 

Each Victory Dance Program has fun and inquisitive mini-workshop interludes between dance pieces to get students thinking about what they are seeing on stage. These breaks give them an opportunity to, in small ways, physically investigate some of the movement motifs that are present in some of the pieces.
Penelope McCourty illustrated in the style of Degas's "The Star."
Victory Dance performances also feature Talk-Backs with the choreographers and company members after each performance. These question and answer sessions are a great way for students to hear what a choreographer’s process is like, why they make dance and what inspires their work. I love Talk-Backs most of all, because I get to see real “Aha!” moments happening, not only for the kids in the audience, but for the choreographers as well.

Why do you dance?

I am lucky enough to have a family who dances at the drop of a hat, so to express myself with movement is second nature to me. I started studying dance in high school and I really connected to the rigor of technique. I still remember the sense of success I felt the first time I landed a triple pirouette, along with the feeling of striving to perfect a barrel turn—I’m still so-so with them. I’ve enjoyed being able to track my growth through many performances, whether formal or in the studio. Spending time trying to figure out a new move or quality of movement is a total geek-out for me. But I think the biggest reason I dance is the absolute joy I feel while dancing, and seeing that same joy reflected in the faces of my fellow dancers.
 

We’ve been looking forward to Victory Dance all year, and we hope you can join us at one of the public performances for just $10 a ticket! Each evening features a unique program of three different companies. See them all for a full summer of dance!

Program A on July 9th includes Darrah Carr Dance, Zvi Dance and Urban Bush Women.
Program B on July 16th includes Martha Graham Dance Company, Noche Flamenca and Kyle Abraham / Abraham.In.Motion.
Program C on July 23rd includes Jessica Lang Dance, Max Pollak / RumbaTap and Parsons Dance.
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