New Victory Arts Break: North America – Connect

We’ve spent the last three weeks exploring the arts in North America, learning about the rich traditions of stepping and ring shout as well as some homegrown music and dance from Washington, D.C. To wrap up our time in North America, we’ll return to the ring shout tradition and explore how the arts can propel us toward the kind of futures we want to have.

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New Victory Arts Break North America Connect

Word Power

Two weeks ago, we followed along with New Victory Teaching Artist Adia Tamar Whitaker as she taught us the rhythms and call-and-response patterns of the Gullah Geechee ring shout tradition. Now it’s time to pair movement with words and express our hopes for the future! Let’s rejoin Adia as she leads us in creating our own future-focused ring shout choreography, set to hopeful lyrics.

Let’s practice Adia’s lyrics:

My future is bright as can be.

My ancestors gave me everything I need.

I keep my head up so my soul will stay free,

Like lions and cheetahs and birds in the breeze.

In your New Victory Notebook, reflect on what these words mean to you, what they make you feel and how they make you want to move. Let’s break it down and create three movements.

My future is bright as can be.

Think of something that’s bright. It could be a light source like starlight or moonlight. It could be a reflection, like a sunset on the water or the sparkle of sequins on your shoes. Or maybe it’s something more emotional, like a smile or the feeling of receiving love.

  • How does that bright thing make you feel?
  • Where in your body can you share that bright feeling?
  • What movement can you create that expresses that feeling?

Adia stretches her arms out in front of her, one at a time. Then, one at a time, brings each arm back in towards her body and places her hand on her heart.

My ancestors gave me everything I need.

An ancestor is someone connected to you who is no longer alive. Think of an ancestor that you have a connection to. Maybe you’re named after an ancestor, or maybe you look like one of your ancestors. Or maybe you just have very fond memories of someone who’s no longer with you.

  • How do you connect with that ancestor?
  • What has that ancestor passed on to you?
  • What movement can you create that represents your connection to that ancestor?

Adia, sitting in a chair, stretches each arm out above her head. Then, one at a time, places each hand on her forehead.

I keep my head up so my soul will stay free,

Like lions and cheetahs and birds in the breeze.

Think of something in nature that travels upwards. It could be a plant bursting out of the soil, or mist rising from a lake, or even an animal like a bird or butterfly.

  • What inspires you about the thing that you chose?
  • What inspires you to keep your head up?
  • What movement can you create that represents those inspirations?

Adia flaps her arms up and down, slowly, like a bird.

Once you’ve created your three movements, it’s time to gather your community and combine your choreography with all the other movements and rhythms of the ring shout. Remember, the ring shout rhythm is kept by clapping or pounding a broomstick against the floor. Then a community elder calls the first part of each lyric and basers respond with the second part. All the while, your ring shout feet are stomp-tapping in a circle, and your arms are performing your future-focused choreography. Hold yourself up strong and declare your hopes for your future!

Like the ring shout, there are many traditional dance forms that continue to resonate today by expressing hope for a brighter future. Check out the work of Ty Defoe (New Victory Dance 2019) as he explains the cultural significance of the Anishinaabe hoop dance and how he is using it to celebrate two-spiritedness and decolonize gender identity.

BONUS: Adia also wrote her own freestyle verse to extend the ring shout tradition and personalize her dance even further. Do you have a freestyle you’d like to add? Write it down in your New Victory Notebook and try layering it on top of the rhythm and movement we practiced above.

Need some inspiration for your freestyle? Start by visualizing it! New 42 Youth Corps Member Jules Evangelista did just that, crafting his very own vision board out of photos, cut-up magazines and some written words of inspiration.

Jules' Vision Board

Vision boards can help us visualize what we want our futures to be like and make our dreams feel more attainable. When embarking on a new project, artists also collect inspiring images, organizing them in mood boards, to help bring their artistic visions to life. You can learn more about creating mood boards in this Arts Break activity from Theater, Sets and Costumes Week.

Zine Your Future

We’ve seen how words have the power to help us think big about our futures. Now let’s go small and create a pocket-sized personalized zine! Zines are handmade mini-magazines that span a range of styles, from visual-heavy collages to comic book-style storyboards to more text-heavy pamphlets. But all zines have one thing in common—they’re meant to be shared with other people to communicate specific themes or ideas.

New 42 Youth Corps Member Aleks Kwiecien loves creating zines. She recently created one themed around the power of words and is excited to share it!

“I first learned about zine-making from a teaching artist at my school. They told us that we can make zines about anything we want, because the artist makes all the decisions and there are no rules to follow. It is therapeutic, and it is my visual version of journaling. My zine, Word Power, has everything I want to accomplish in the future. Whenever I need inspiration and motivation, this is my reminder.” – Aleks Kwiecien, New Victory Usher

Aleks' Zine

Materials: A piece of paper, writing utensils

Step One: Fold your piece of paper in half twice to form a booklet. Aleks created some instructions for folding your paper, first like a hot dog and then like a hamburger! Take a look:

How to make a 4-page zine diagram

Step Two: Create your cover! For Word Power’s cover, Aleks designed detailed letters to make sure all her words were written with intention. How will you design your cover? If you like, you can take inspiration from Aleks’ pre-drawn letters below!

Aleks' Word Power Cover

Aleks' Zine Letters

Step Three: In your New Victory Notebook, draft some declarations for your future that answer the question, “When you peek into your future, what is one thing that you want to happen for you?” Here are some examples from Aleks and her fellow Youth Corps members:

Aleks Kwiecien

I want to be able to meet different, creative people everyday and give back the same positive energy I receive. – Aleks Kwiecien, New Victory Usher

Jeniya Smith

When I peek into my future, I would like to see myself owning a pediatric center with my master’s degree. – Jeniya Smith, New Victory Usher

Anabel Rivera

I want to be happy and share that happiness with others. – Anabel Rivera, New 42 College Corps Member

Annalisa D’Aguilar

I would like be able to go see live theater and to start working professionally as an actor. – Annalisa D’Aguilar, New Victory Usher

Veronica Perez

I would love to experience different cultures and foods, as well as get to know people internationally. – Veronica Perez, New Victory Usher

Step Four: Now for the super colorful and creative part! It’s time to decorate the inside of your zine. This can do this through drawing, writing, collage or all three! Take inspiration from your response to the question in Step Three and visualize a hopeful peek into your future.

The inside of Aleks' zine

Youth Corps Spotlight

At the end of every fourth week of New Victory Arts Break: Explore a World of Arts, we spend some time with a member of the New 42 Youth Corps who has a connection to one of the art forms, themes or artistic processes showcased over the prior four weeks.

Ashlie McNeal

Meet Ashlie McNeal,
New 42 Youth Corps Member

It can be hard to feel like you’re making progress toward your future if you don’t take regular moments to pause and reflect. Our New Victory Education Fellow, William Porter, spoke with New Victory Usher Ashlie McNeal about her relationship with mental health, the importance of self-care and some vlogging techniques she uses to check in with herself.

William: Why have you been making video blogs as a form of self-care?
Ashlie: I make these videos because they help me reflect. I can be completely free with myself without the fear of judgment from others. It’s me facing myself, and each video allows me to learn something new about who I am.

W: Why do you feel it’s important to share these techniques?
A: By sharing two techniques that I use as a form of self-care, I feel like I am helping younger children who may not know how to express themselves. I gained these techniques from individuals I admire, and I can honestly say that I feel better about myself. I am communicating with myself and learning more about who I am—personal growth is so important and an integral aspect of my future.

W: What are some wishes you have for your future?
A: In the future, I hope that I have accomplished all the goals that I have set for myself. I plan to create a vision board so that I have a place to look at my dreams every day. I aspire to become a criminal defense attorney someday, so putting my dreams into reality is definitely a part of the plan.

W: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
A: In five years I see myself going on to receive my master’s degree. I also see myself traveling and enjoying my time here on planet Earth, continuing to take in each day with grace.

W: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
A: I would want to read people’s minds. Although I might hear some shocking things, I have always wanted the power of telepathy. I would find the ability to understand someone else’s thoughts and emotions very fascinating.

Give Ashlie’s techniques a try, and check out the work of Green Thumb Theatre in British Columbia, Canada. They make theater for young people that focuses on personal struggles kids and teenagers often face but don’t talk about. Checking in with yourself and capturing your feelings in a recording, like Ashlie, might be the first step in talking with your friends or family about challenges you’re facing. And talking about things can really help.

Note to Self

Ashlie’s self-care techniques are about checking in with yourself every morning, but wouldn’t it be great if you could wake up and already feel ready to tackle your day? In your New Victory Notebook, write a letter to your morning self to start the day on a positive note and set yourself up for success! Think about:

  • What compliments or words of encouragement can you give yourself?
  • What’s something you want to accomplish?
  • What will bring you great joy?

Leave your letter by your bedside and read it aloud in the morning, declaring to the day ahead all of the well-wishes you had the night before. You can do it!

Note to self

And on that hopeful note, we say good-bye to North America and pack up our suitcase. From Down Under, around the globe and home again, we hope you’ve enjoyed exploring a world of arts with us this season. There’s more New Victory Arts Break to come, though! Stay tuned.

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.