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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.
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.

Written by Lindsey Buller Maliekel, Director of Education / Public Engagement

Whether in the classroom or at home, the New Vic encourages kids to discuss their theatergoing experiences with their peers and the adults in their lives so that they can make personal connections to a show's artistry and themes. We've received many comments from audiences who attended LUV: AMERICAN STYLE this past weekend. Some told us that the show gave them that chance to start authentic and interesting conversations with their kids, while others expressed that they felt unprepared for the show's plot and content. Given the range of responses, I'm hopeful that this blog post can help prepare audiences to explore and discuss their reactions to the show.

Still from LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE

In LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE, choreographer Rennie Harris uses hip hop dance and dialogue to tell a story about how one young man becomes mired in a case of mistaken identity. The loose plot portrays several breakdancing schoolkids who are arrested and wrongfully incarcerated for disturbing the peace. After the kids experience how tough prison can be, the mistake is discovered and they are released. The show touches on issues of prison violence, social justice and law enforcement and community relations.

New York City families are familiar with these issues, if not from their own lives, then certainly from current events featured in the news, on television, and in movies and music. Discussing these topics with young people can be challenging, but I invite you to consider how LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE can be a spark for authentic conversations with your family. The performance is something you experience together, and it can be a useful springboard for talking about topics your kids might have heard a lot about this year, including conflicts between teens and the police. Whether you have already seen the show or are planning to come this weekend, here are some tips to start, extend, and deepen those conversations.

Start with Questions

This is an opportunity for you to learn what your kid thinks, what they understand, what they have questions about and what connections they might be making to real-life issues and events in the news. Here are some prompts that can get you started:

Before you see the show:
  • How does the outside world view you as a kid/young adult? What do they understand? What don't they understand?
  • Do you ever feel that the world is unjust? How? If you had to create a dance piece about justice, what style of dance would you use?
  • Have you ever witnessed or been part of an unjust situation? What happened?
After the show:
  • What real-life issues were explored in LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE? How did Rennie Harris use dance and spoken word to address these issues? 
  • Can you think of any other pieces of art (dance, visual art, music, theater, etc.) that address real-life issues? Why do people create this kind of art? Do you think it's important to make this kind of art? Why or why not?
  • What questions do you have about the show? What did the show make you think about or wonder?
  • If you were to create a dance that addressed real-life topics, what topic would you choose? What style of dance would you use? What music would you choose?

Extend the Conversation

Once you've gauged your kid's curiosity and level of understanding, you can continue the conversation in an age-appropriate way. This could be a chance for you to correct misconceptions, answer questions that come up, and help your kid make sense of the world they are living in. Here are some suggestions:
  • Try not to over-explain. If your kid saw the show and had a different experience than you did while watching, meet your kid at the developmental stage where they are at. Don't feel the need to link the show to every event you've read about in the news over the last year.
  • Acknowledge that these are complicated issues that can be challenging to have conversations about—don't feel the need to be an expert. Include your own beliefs and values in the conversation, but don't feel obligated to have all the answers. You can always say, "I don’t know," or, "I want to learn more about that before we talk about it further."
  • Don't forget the art part! LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE has content and a storyline that feels related to current events, but it is foremost a dance performance! Talk about how RHAW used movement, music, space, lighting, tempo and relationships to tell the story. 

Deepen the Learning
Now that you and your kid have begun this conversation, here are some resources that can help you continue and deepen the experience.

Prepare yourself to continue the conversation:
Learn more about the artist:
Read books and go to see more art together that addresses related issues: 
Still from LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE

Art doesn't need to be a thing held apart from the world—rather, it provides a platform for artists to explore the world more deeply, and for audiences to do the same through ongoing conversation. In the case of LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE, Rennie Harris's intent is to provide "a greater understanding of how I personally choose to find the light during dark times." He created LUV with his son, Brandyn, who also performs as the main character in the show; this work is their family's contribution to the conversation. We hope it inspires you artistically, and perhaps gives you a springboard for meaningful conversations.
 

Lindsey Buller-Maliekel Lindsey Buller Maliekel is the Director of Education / Public Engagement for The New Victory Theater and has worked here since 2004.  She oversees the New Vic/New 42 Youth Corps program, as well as all enrichment activities for New Vic families. If you've ever stayed for a Talk-Back with the artists or hula-hooped with Teaching Artists before a show, Lindsey hopes that you had a great time! She has two sons who she hopes will always enjoy going to the theater with her.
Posted by Zack Ramadan
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