5,6,7,8…Dance Specialty Gives Me Life!

Posted 14 July 2015 12:00 AM by Aysha Upchurch

I’m new to Boston and after an intense academic year that left me little free time, I had been yearning for a chance to connect with the city via my language of choice – dance. When the Teen Leadership Council visited my class at the Harvard Graduate School of Education this past spring, I knew I had found my soul tribe and entry point. I leapt at the chance to apply for the City Spotlights Dance Specialty Teaching Artist; not only did this organization hone young people’s artistic skills, but it was centered on youth development and advocacy. The only downside to finding out I was hired in April, is that I would have to wait until July to begin. I would have to truly test whether patience was a virtue I possessed.

You see, I have spent the past 10 summers at a performing arts school in North Dakota working with talented young people in musical theater. So waiting to feel like my summer could be ‘normal’ again in this new city was a difficult exercise. Yet meeting these creative, artistic, and outspoken youth this first week has not only been well worth the wait, but has already proved to be more inspiring and affirming than I could have imagined. The 21 Teen Leaders in Dance Specialty have to be the most naturally gifted group of dancers I have ever worked with. Both new and veteran participants have embraced me and the lesson plans with enthusiasm, diving into breakdance basics and choreography like champs.

Before I conclude this post, I have to shout out the rest of the Dance Specialty team – Azeb Freitas (Assistant) and John Fifi (Junior Assistant). They catch the little details and contribute to the overarching strategy for how to make sure our group has an enriching experience. So as we keep moving – and I mean that literally and figuratively – I look forward to facilitating the Teen Leaders’ choreography process towards mounting their final showcase piece. I only hope time doesn’t fly too quickly because working with City Spotlights and with these young people has given my transition to Boston new life.

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