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!
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.
When 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.
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.