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A Message of Love

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Levi Marsman

Levi Marsman, boston Choreographer and recipient of Ballet Inc’s EMERGING CHOREOGRAPHER AWARD for 2016, is one of two guest choreographers selected to work with Urbanity Dance for their upcoming show, Urbanity NeXt! We sat down with him to talk about the work he is producing, and what it means for Urbanity and the Boston community.

Tell me a little bit about the piece you are creating. What is your inspiration?

“The piece is entitled “HEADSPACE” and will be using  Philip Glass’ “Einstein on the Beach” (Knee Play 1 & Knee Play 5):

I recently have been confronted with a lot of anxiety and overthinking and a lot of people around me seem to be dealing with that same thing. Someone very close to me, in addition to those things, is also dealing with OCD and is constantly feeling disconnected with people. This music is exactly what I hear in my head if I were to put [OCD] to a score; constant interruption and unsettled thoughts when trying to focus. I want to create an abstract work that really highlights those ideas of overthinking, anxiety and a sense of loneliness.”

Do you follow a certain process when you create? 

“All of my works are often inspired by the music.  I have wanted to create a work to Philip Glass’ “Einstein on the Beach” for quite some time. Besides the obvious beauty, there is a certain chaos and complexity in the music that I love. It is for that reason that I have wanted to wait until I was truly inspired by something that I felt this music connected with. Now that I feel the music is completely in me, I will be able to create movement based on ideas and improv the dancers and I will create in the studio.”

Always a great time teach company class for @urbanitydance!A post shared by Lee M. (@lvmrsmn) on Feb 6, 2017 at 6:27am PST

 

What do you hope to leave your audience with?

“It is my hope that this piece shows us how connected we may actually be in times we feel alone….at times we could all be distracted and unsettled when we aren’t feeling love. In a time like today, we all need to know that we love and care about each other when there are people who intend to divide us.

Hopefully if the audience can see their connection to the senses  of overthinking and loneliness and then later to the sense of love, that perhaps they would be more willing to show more love and empathy to others.”

What do you hope to leave your dancers with?Next.2017.poster.final

“I think that my style is very different from anything I have seen showcased in the beautiful performances I have seen by Urbanity. I tend to fuse a more traditional modern style with ballet and have created my own contemporary style. It is my hope that engage both their intellect and their connection as a company by focusing on their sense of need for another dancer and with this common idea.”

What excites you about working with Urbanity Dance in Particular?

“Having taught the dancers quite a bit I believe I’m learning their strengths and could challenge them as well as highlight their beauty. I am SO thrilled Betsi has chosen me for this year’s NeXt Residency as I feel we’ve become closer and closer over the years. Her passion for Urbanity is my passion for dance and she has put together the perfect group of dancers who are open and enthusiastic for a project like this. The sky is the limit with this bunch!”

-Levi Marsman

For more information about Levi Marsman, classes, or bookings check out his Artist Page by clicking the following link: http://facebook.com/levimarsman He is also premiering a new work for Boston Conservatory at Berkelee Feb. 23, 24 & 25.

More information about Urbanity NeXt and tickets can be found here.
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Meet Darnell “Snoopy” Brown

Recently we had the opportunity to sit down with our lead Urban and World Dance teacher at E.W. Brooke Charter School who has helped pioneer this new partnership.  We are kicking off 2017 by reflecting on how much our students have grown as well as Darnell’s hopes and dreams for the future. 
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This is our fist year working with E.W. Brooke Charter School – what’s been your favorite thing about your students?

They make me laugh! Watching them get into a groove, set plan, they are growing. They’re learning to fix things for themselves and they truly want to be in dance class as well as learn respect for themselves and other members of the class.

How have your students grown since the start of dance classes?

Movement wise – they are getting better. They have learned to stop saying “I can’t do it” and have started asking questions like, “how do you do ____.” I can tell they feel more comfortable and confident.

How do you think the skills you’re teaching them in dance class will help them grow through high school, college and beyond?

 

Well – it helps them with homework! They know that if they don’t do their homework they can’t come to my class. They are learning teamwork and responsibility. Even when they miss class, I find out that they practice during lunch and will teach others who may have missed the previous week.
 
If an outsider walked into your class at any point – what could they expect to see?

 

Drilling! 100% of students participating. We go over steps slowly and work on speeding up. It’s also a fun time. Sometimes teachers will take the class. The other day I was playing the song “Ju ju on that beat” and a couple teachers came in and did the dance with us. One time the principal taught warm up. Ms. Mendez the secretary brought in Spanish music and taught a Spanish dance once. Not only are students involved, everyone joins in. We approach dance all together and it’s not like the students are laughing at the teachers. Their reactions are “Oh wow! You can do that?!” We can all do it together and be cool together.

 

You’re also very active in the Boston Dance Community. Do you have any past or current projects you’re excited about?

 

I just won a competition for Hip Hop International hosted by Ja Ja from Phunk Phenomenon. I submitted a 3 minute video doing 3 different dance styles, old school hip hop with a focus on locking, krump and dance hall. I won a free trip to Phoenix, Arizona and will get to take classes and participate in hip hop battles with top dancers and choreographers in the hip hop industry like Nappy Tabs, Paris, Tight Eyes, and more.
 
Any goals for the New Year?

 

My students will be performing in a competition in March – so we are getting prepared for that. Outside of Brooke, I’m currently working on a concept video centered around women empowerment explored through a hip hop dance lens. You might say my students at Brooke played a part in inspiring me. I hope to get my dance hall workshops up and running for the spring. I’m also really excited about my new full-time job at Apple. I want to say yes to everything! However, I’m always taking into consideration my personal limits.

 

We are so thrilled to have Darnell pioneering this program at Brooke! You can check him out here, and be sure to keep an eye out for the incredible work he creates!
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Coaching a Chorus to Move

“I want them to choose to be great performers, not be great performers because they may have a natural tendency to be.” – Alexander Davis, interview with Urbanity Dance

This Monday, the Boston Children’s Chorus is putting on its 14th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert: How I got Over – Conducted by Dr. Anthony Trecek-King.

The Boston’s Children’s Chorus is a non-profit organization whose mission is to ” [harness] the power and joy of music to unite our city’s diverse communities and inspire social change”(bostonchildrenschorus.org). The program has 13 different youth choirs, committed to not only a strong music education but developing leadership skills and active and responsible community members. Urbanity Dance’s own instructor and Company dancer, Alexander Davis, is working with the BCC to provide training in movement that compliments their choral education.

Alex works to make the students anatomically aware of their own bodies, focusing on each minute detail. Questions heard in class range from “are my toes curled? how is my weight arranged over my hips?” to “have I collapsed my chest inwards?” Honing in on the smallest details not only ensures that students are at their best to create beautiful and full vocals, allowing full deep breaths and stability, but creates a sense of total awareness and control over the body. Alex hopes this range of self awareness emboldens students, increasing their confidence and self esteem.

One of the songs Alex worked with the chorus on is a rendition of Sojourner Truth’s speech, Ain’t I A Woman. As students rehearsed two things happened, “They were all approaching it with a very clear feminist perspective. Some of them were singing outward and aggressively. Some of them were performing in a very grounded way, their performance energy was going down into the earth.”

Afterwards, they spent time discussing the intention of the work and the narrative that is portrayed. The students decided that it was an arc; “Although the work starts with a very outwards exclamation quality, it moves to a very grounded self proclamation.”

To reflect this narrative in the performance and body, Alex talked the students through their stance, “An even pelvis would reflect a sense of being grounded. The slightest shift of weight can communicate massively different things, and the students wanted to avoid archetypes of what has become used as a caricature of feminism.

If the chest is open and the sternum out, shoulders back, feet planted but weight shifted forwards onto the balls of your feet- you are projecting outwards. This is where the piece starts.

If you shift your weight back, still leave your chest open, but relax the shoulders a bit forwards and down, and shift your weight slightly backwards- you are projecting down. This is where the piece travels.”

The Chorus is set to perform this piece and many others this upcoming Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. By learning to control the body the Boston Children’s Chorus and Urbanity Dance can help to develop performers that are able to make conscious decisions about what they are portraying to the world. With students that are completely aware of themselves, the performance is sure to be breathtaking.

 

written by Michelle Thomas

 

 

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What is it like to go to college for dance?

When I tell people what my major is, I often get, “So what do you want to do after college?”

My response, “That’s the golden question.”

Of course, I go on to inform the inquirer with a more detailed answer: highlighting my likes and dislikes and how that might theoretically guide me to focus on one area more than another, in the big scope of the dance world. But let’s not talk about that for now. I’m a junior after all.

“But what does being a “dance major” mean? Do you just dance all day?” you ask.

I am at a conservatory college, which for an undergraduate student like me, means earning a B.F.A or bust. There are no minors and no double majors, so I have no “back-up”. And yes, I pretty much dance all day. Academics each semester typically consist of one dance related academic and one liberal arts (history/literature based) class. I write a few essays each semester, tests come and go, and grades are mostly a reflection of attendance and attitude.

Which leads me to discuss college life. I don’t live a typical “college” existence of cramming or partying. I spend more time at the barre then the bar. My weekends are spent lying in bed resting, cross-training, working off campus, or rehearsing extra projects. Boston Conservatory is also a very intimate atmosphere. My junior class has 26 people in it and the dance division in total is around 140. Professors here play a careful balance of mentor and extended family member.

Most of my workload comes from the physical and mental stress of living, breathing, and dancing in the same bubble. Stress also comes from the unknown and an uncertainty that stems from going into a field that is not “stable.” Every moment counts because there is always only so much time; to train, to audition, to learn, to develop a skill, to practice, to perform. Most difficult for me, the choice to become an artist forces you to look inside yourself and claim your own individuality as something that is worth being seen.

The one thing that comforts me in all this, is that there are no rules. After I graduate from college, I’ll see where life takes me. I want to be dancing now because I’m young. However, the dance world is massive and holds so many opportunities. Maybe I’ll be in an administrative role one day or teach, choreograph, photograph dance, be a critic, write grants for a non-profit, go into movement therapy, represent artists as a talent agent, own a studio of my own, work as a company manager, or go back to school for something else! Maybe I won’t. What I do know is when I “dance all day”, I’m doing much more than that. I’m learning how to become the best at something that doesn’t have a limit to its perfection.

So this is my real answer, “ I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out.”

-Christina Morrison

Christina Morrison is the current Marketing Intern for Urbanity Dance. She is working towards her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Contemporary Dance from Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Christina is excited to be developing her knowledge of the dance world in a new way.

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Creative Gift Ideas from Urbanity

You give to us. We give something back to you. You get a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable gift. We get funding to help us operate.

How about supporting not only a small business on #SmallBusinessSaturday but also a local nonprofit organization like Urbanity Dance?

Some creative gift ideas from Urbanity’s elves:

  • Dance Swag $10-$40! Tanks, tees, shorts, bags, bottles, socks, oh my!
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  • Season Ticket Subscription or Single Performance Tickets
  • Adult Dance Classes
  • Youth Dance Classes (1-18 yrs)
    • Gift certificates for any amountkidsgroove-9
  • Private Lessons
    • Ballroom, hip-hop, or contemporary. Great for couples, weddings, or organizing a fun outing to learn moves from your favorite music video. Email Haley Day, Principal, haley@urbanitydance.org for more information.
  • Make a donation to Urbanity in the name of someone you love!
    • Earmarked donations can pay for community programs like Dance with Parkinson’s, Urban & World Dance in Boston Public Schools, or Movement Mends.
    • Buy a performance ticket for an Urbanity student or family who may not be able to afford it. This allows the students to see their teachers perform and get inspired!
    • Help support our scholarship fund for families in need of financial assistance. Pay for a budding dancer to fulfill their dream of studying dance.

Urbanity Dance is committed to giving back to our community. Thank you for considering to support us in creative ways so that we may continue to serve others through dance and movement.

With Love,

The Urbanity Team

http://www.urbanitydance.org | ask@urbanitydance.org | (617) 572-3727

 

Photo Credits (Order of Appearance): Alumna Lara Park by Eli Akerstein, Merch Model/Former Intern Zoe Dunivin, Kids Groove by Whitney Waddell
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Movement and Music

One of the most compelling pieces of Call of Courage is the original score that is being produced for it. Local Musician Ryan Edwards has been working to seamlessly meld worlds; integrating voice, found environment, and contemporary music into a truly unique score.

The process started with 8 stories. Eight essays of youth courage and perseverance in the face of bullying were chosen from the Max Warburg Courage Curriculum:

I was reading the essays before the first meeting. The big question for me is how much of the essays, how specific and how personal, and what is the line between it being a story about this person who wrote this essay and a story that could be about anyone and maybe even me. That’s the line that we are still trying to find.  

Ryan worked to interview the children one on one and record their own voice sharing their stories. Students walked in the door shy and curious, unsure of how it would go.

I’m in touch with their sense of courage, and then sometimes they are really nervous to talk, so that’s a beautiful thing. 

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The voices are then combined with electronic music, live music, hired musicians, and found sounds. Ryan describes it as making a giant audio collage;

I went to schools and actually recorded lunchroom chatter and arguments… literally blending music sounds with environmental sounds: bell ringing, locker door slamming… making that my snare drum sound… all these things that are textural and reminiscent of their environment.

– Ryan Edwards

Some of the most compelling moments come in when the sound cuts out. The Dancers visual breathing become part of our auditory experience and when a dancer hits a drum the sound leaves a vibration in your hand as well.

Snippets from #callofcourage showing next friday! #courage #dance #contemporarydance #bosarts

A post shared by Urbanity Dance (@urbanitydance) on

Meshing all of these factors together creates a unique viewing experience that toys with the line of narrative and abstraction. Snippets of voice connect you to a direct human, but the level to which you identify is varies throughout the show. The score and dance play with the line of personal narrative and creating an environment you see yourself in.

 

So much of this performance is a balancing act. How do you strike a balance between text and music, between personal narrative and universal connections, auditory story and visual story, and always- where is the line between play and harm.

Learn more about the performance and the process of making it here.