“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