New Victory Arts Break: North America – Discover

This season, we’ve visited artists all around the world, getting a glimpse of where they live and how they create work. Now it’s time to return to our home continent of North America and check in with some artists who have performed on the New Victory stage, including Step Afrika! in Washington, D.C.

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New Victory Arts Break North America Discover

Meet the Artists

Let’s explore the performing arts in North America! Made up of 23 countries and home to 580 million people, North America is the third-largest continent. Hundreds of languages are spoken in North America, and out of this melting pot of cultures comes an incredible variety of art. Let’s take a look at a few companies and see what they’ve been up to.

North America artist triptych

  • Hailing from Havana, Cuba, Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba fuses ballet, flamenco, Afro-Cuban and contemporary dance styles on stage. Check out some of their work on YouTube, including a compilation of what they’ve created in lockdown over the past year.
  • From Nashville to New York City and skateboarding to hip hop, Bill Shannon is an interdisciplinary performance and media artist. His choreography is known for its use of rocker-bottom crutches—his website is full of examples—and he’s the subject of the new documentary CRUTCH.
  • Since 1952, Ballet Folklórico de México has mixed traditional Mexican folk dance with the shapes and movements of ballet, all to mesmerizing effect. Check out examples of their work on their YouTube channel.

Eager for more? Last spring and summer, our amazing friends at TYA/USA compiled weekly lists of different types of digital engagement for young audiences called TYA@Home.

tya @ home

At this time last year, we were saying a sad and sudden good-bye to Washington D.C.’s Step Afrika!—their show Drumfolk was the last show on the New Victory stage before we closed our doors in 2020. But Step Afrika! hasn’t stopped moving. One year later, it’s time to take a trip to Washington, D.C., and reunite! Let’s join Step Afrika! dancer and choreographer, Ronnique Murray, as she shows us a bit about her hometown.

Grab your New Victory Notebook and respond to the following questions:

  • When you think of your hometown, what are the first three places that come to mind?
  • Has anything in your hometown changed since you’ve lived there? How do you feel about those changes?
  • What are some things that you know about Washington, D.C.? Did you learn anything new?
  • Think of a fun memory. Where was it? Do you associate any sounds, smells and colors with this memory?
  • What does the word “community” mean to you and how does it influence who you are?

D.C. Grooves

Washington, D.C., is our nation’s capital and home to 700,000 people, including the members of Step Afrika!. It’s also the hometown of New Victory Teaching Artist Olney Edmondson. Follow along as Olney shares the joyful energy and infectious rhythm of go-go music, a mixture of funk, gospel, jazz and Afro-Caribbean beats that was everywhere in D.C. when she was growing up and that’s now the city’s official music.

Let’s grab some items from around our homes that will help us continue to play with the rhythms that Olney taught us. We need to make sure we grab items that aren’t fragile and that will really give us a good beat. Here are a few items that we chose:

A potted plant, a book, a bowl of stones, a ball of yarn, a brass lamp

It’s time to practice that go-go beat!

Step One: Play around with using your voice to make the beat, like Olney taught us. Take a listen.

Step Two: Try to make the same beat using the items you gathered from around your home.

Step Three: Now add your own flare! Keep the original beat going as best you can, but change where and how you’re making it.

Here’s our attempt at the go-go beat with stuff we found around our home.

BONUS: Can you teach this go-go beat to a friend or family member so that you can jam out together?

Exploring North America

We may call North America home, but that doesn’t make us experts! There’s always more to learn about the place you come from. Here are a few fun facts about North America.

  • People have lived in North America for at least 16,000 years.
  • Home to over 9 million people, Mexico City is the largest city in North America.
  • The most commonly spoken languages in North America are English, French and Spanish.

In addition to the map below, Maps of World has a great roundup of information about North America, from geography to biodiversity to culture.

Map of North America

Grab Your New Victory Notebook and answer the following questions.

  • Looking at this map of North America, can you list all the places you’ve been?
  • What about all of the places you want to travel to?
  • What are some places you want to learn more about?

Ask your family and friends the same questions! Were there any similarities in your answers?

Did you know that many different forms and styles of dance originated in North America? Take a look at some of these video examples:

Where is your hometown? What country are you from? What dances are associated with that place? Are there dances that you often dance with your family? Is there a dance that originated from your culture? Grab Your New Victory Notebook, and let’s dive into the history of dance where you’re from!

Step One: Choose a location. It can be your hometown, the country your family is from, or maybe it’s the hometown of another family member or a dear friend.

Step Two: Ask around and do a bit of detective work to find out what dances are popular in the location you chose. Maybe there’s a social dance you do with friends that you associate with that location, or maybe your family dances salsa at get-togethers. Whatever it is, write it down in your Notebook.

Go deeper in your detective work and trace your favorite dance style back to its roots. For example, did you know that hip-hop dancing originated in the South Bronx in the late 1970s and early 1980s?

Step Three: In your Notebook, write and draw all of the things you associate with the style of dance you’ve chosen:

Hip-hop drawing

Step Four: Inspired by your drawing and the dance form, make a simple dance move that you feel encompasses how this type of dance makes you feel. Here’s a hip-hop example!

Dance move gif

Done with one? Discover another! Ask around and see how many cool dance forms you can learn about from family and friends.

Thanks for traveling back home with us to North America and joining us for our Discover Week adventures. Come back for Create Week to see what inspires Ronnique and Step Afrika! to create their impactful choreography.

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.