** Featured Image from Ballet Afrique Contemporary Dance company in Austin, Texas**
This past week I attended the International Association of Blacks in Dance conference (IABD). It’s 4 days of taking master classes, listening to panel discussions about various topics by legends and greats in the dance world, seeing performances by professionals and youth companies, and being saturated with the essence of dance and movement from your peers, colleagues, mentors, teachers, and legends.
Thursday night was the first performance of the event by various youth ensembles around the country. Some of these ensembles are the academies or schools to professional dance companies like Lula Washington Dance Theater, Dallas Black Dance Theater, Divine Dance Institute, and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater. Others were middle and high schools that concentrated on the arts or had a major in dance such as Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Lewis Cass Technical High School. As someone who has been dancing since the age of 3, AND someone who currently teaches dance in a DC charter high school, AND dances professionally with a modern dance company, AND someone who cannot identify myself separate from the art of dance, I was more than overwhelmed, inspired, and hopeful to see the youth of dance on that stage.
All of the performances were executed impeccably. Young dancers of today are stronger, more technically sound, more experiential, more willing, and more hungry to challenge, test, and prove themselves than ever before. Students were performing movement that I only learned to do within the past 3 years!! Their flexibility made my hips begin to hurt just watching it! As much as I wanted to be jealous of their technique, or reminisce about my own dance training as a child, I had to stop myself and look at not only what they were bringing to the table currently, but also what their technical and performing skills would bring to the world of dance in the future. These kids are the future of dance… and it is promising!
What struck me most about their performance was not their high jumps; not their multiple turning sequences; not their amazing athleticism (which I thrive on as a dancer); and not their physical stamina to complete such feats with grace and ease. Instead, it was their commitment and dedication to be so immersed in this art form that I love so much that they would dedicate hours of training, make sacrifices from their social life, travel across the country to be apart of this conference, and meld it with their academic journey in middle and high school. Dance does not have to be done within a vacuum. Dance should not be done within a vacuum. It should be learned, experienced, and witnessed by everyone! And most importantly, all youth should have the opportunity to be exposed to it at its purest form. When young people are exposed to the art of dance, then the future of dance not only is guaranteed to continue, but it is guaranteed to evolve and grow. This is what makes it so exciting to witness youth perform dance. The youth of dance make it possible for dance to continue and reinvent itself so it will always live on!!
For this reason I believe that the youth ensemble performance at the International Association of Blacks in Dance was the most uplifting and inspiring moment of the conference for me. Sure I got to sit in on panels and listen to speakers, and see professionals perform, and take master classes myself, and learn from legends and master teachers, and audition for professional companies….. but NOTHING will beat seeing the future of dance right before my very eyes. Nothing will overshadow the feeling of hope I have for the art of dance by seeing these young people perform it with such rigor, dedication, skill, and passion.
To know that even when I am done with my work in dance, that the art of dance will still live on……. That is enough for me to continue to dance on. To dance on in my training… To dance on in my teaching… To dance on with my students…. To dance on in life. Thank you IABD youth for inspiring me to dance on!! #IABD #PopStyle #DanceisLife #Dance
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