The Youth of IABD- Dance On!!!

** 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 legeIABD_W-BGnds 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 2016_IABDvacuum. 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

~Ashlee Dawne
Twitter: @PopStyleBlog
Instagram: @manifested55
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Misty Copeland- America’s Humble Prima Ballerina

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Misty Copeland

This name invokes such inspiration and passion to me.  As a dancer, I look to others in my field who perform the art form I love so much for inspiration, encouragement, motivation, and who can be used as a positive role model and aspiration for the dance students I teach everyday.  Just in case you have been living under a rock that blocked out any and all visual, auditory, or kinethestic run ins with this woman, let me introduce you to her….

Misty Copeland is a Principal Ballerina with American Ballet Theater in NYC.  She is known for her fluid and graceful motion, her strong musicality, her humble spirit in interviews and on stage, and her inspiration to young girls in ballet.  You may have:

  • misty under armourSeen her on billboards and commercials advertising the athletic wear for UnderArmour (becoming the 1st ballet dancer to be a spokesperson for the company)
  • Seen her at book signings for her memoir “Life in Motion” or her children’s book “Firebird.”
  • Heard her speaking in interviews on 60
    Minutes, Late Night with Stephen Colbert, NPR, ABC News, Essence Magazine, or Elle Magazine
  • Noticed her gracing the cover of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People edition
  • Heard of her new documentary entitled “A Ballerina’s Tale to be released Oct. 14, 2015
  • Established her as the epitome of the phrase “Started from the Bottom” or “I Will What I Want.”

Now that you are all caught up to speed with her accomplishments… I have one question for you?

Did you know Misty Copeland is an African-American 32 year old, 5 foot 3 inch female who didnt start taking Ballet until she was 13 years old at her neighborhood Boys and Girls Club in California?

EXACTLY!!!  This is why Misty Copeland epitomizes the phrase “I Will What I Want” and “Started from the Bottom!”  She made headlines this summer when she was promoted to Principal dance with American Ballet Theater, making her the 1st African-American principal dancer the company has ever had in its 75 year history!!

I mentioned earlier that I look to other people in my field of dance that are both inspirational and motivating to me as a dance artists and teacher, and can serve as a positive role model to the high school students I teach on a daily basis.  Misty Copeland is certainly one of those people!  The girl is basically me (same age, a couple inches taller, same ethnicity) except I started Ballet when I was 3 years old!!! (ugh… sometimes life isn’t fair… 😦  pout face.  Why God why couldn’t that be me??)  Anyways….. I digress to my original post.  The reason I believe that I admire her so much, and that America admires her so much is her humility as both an artist, entertainer, and role model.

In today’s society where many female superstars are touted for their beauty (a lot of which is superficial- Kardashians), or for the amount of money they make (yes Beyonce Im looking at you), or who they are dating, married to, or romantically linked with (Rihanna, Taylor Swift), Misty Copeland defies them all.  She speaks with a level of humility that simply makes you want to be a better person.  She does not elevate herself above others in her field, nor does she promote herself only based on her superficial appearance.  I find this statement of hers very poignant:  “I just had to remember why I’m getting the attention I’m getting. It’s because of my dancing. It’s because I’m a ballerina, and no other reason.” (NY Daily News 2015)

misty copeland timeThanks to Misty Copeland, Ballet is speaking for itself and making waves in its own way.  World Ballet Day was just celebrated on October 1st, where people from around the world could tune in and stream 24 hours of professional Ballet companies ranging from Australian Ballet, Royal Ballet (London) National Ballet of Canada, Bolshoi Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet.  The world got to experience Ballet this way- and due to Misty Copeland’s wise to to stardom in the arts world and the pop culture world, other Americans who would have never seen or experienced Ballet, will now be exposed to it through the many barriers that Misty Copeland has broken.  Thanks Misty for all that you have done.  Thank you letting your heart speak through your feet.  Thank you for letting the dance do the talking.  
~Ashlee Dawne
#PopStyle
Twitter: @PopStyleBlog