John Mayer’s song, “Waiting on the World to Change” has some profound lyrics that, to me, are a call to action for the younger generation - a siren song for young people to be the change they want to see in the world. I had a brainstorm a few months back that I presented to Hayley, Artistic Director for our programs that she willingly embraced. My idea was to set a dance piece to this song using five of our dancers in Project UP and five of her dancers from her dance studio, Element. The first rehearsal for this piece was held this weekend, and I’m convinced that it will change the world - or at least open a lot of eyes to something in the world that needs to change.
|Project UP dancers rehearsing at Element|
We’re using a bench as the center piece of the dance, having it to represent the “place” where kids want to be to have fun and hang out with their friends. The Project UP dancers start off on the bench, having fun with each other, but are soon pushed off the bench by the Element dancers, who are typical teenagers and highly skilled dancers. The piece goes through several transitions with the typical teens using the bench, the teens with special needs trying to join in with them on the bench only to be rejected and ends with the typical teens joining the Project UP kids, realizing that they were wrong to exclude kids just because they are “different.” I will post a video of the piece as soon as it is more fully formed and rehearsed, but based on the first rehearsal; I’m convinced it will have a profound effect on the audiences that see it.
We will debut the piece at our Sixth Annual Evening of Dance in January and then will take it on the road to a dance competition in Atlanta, where it will be performed in front of an audience of several hundred dancers from across the Southeast. It is my hope that this piece will, at the most, inspire dance studios and choreographers to include kids with special needs in their dance studios and companies, and at the least will move one person to think about how accepting they are to people who have differences from what society defines as “normal.”
It has already had a profound effect on Hayley and me, as the piece is being created, and on the ten kids who are dancing in it. Before we started setting choreography, we had a discussion with the kids about the story we are trying to tell with this piece - a story of feeling left out, being ignored and being made to feel unwelcome. All of the kids, typical or disabled, were able to recall times when they had felt the same emotions of being excluded from something they wanted to do. I watched five teenagers who are trained athletes open their hearts and minds to the artistic expression of five teenagers who face barriers everywhere they go. At the end of our first three hour rehearsal, friendships were established and the notion of what it means to be different was challenged.
We may not have changed the world yet, but we have begun to change ten teenagers, and that’s enough of a great start for me! Stay tuned for updates on how we progress through this journey of discovery, and join us if you can on January 11 or 12, 2013, to see if we’ve come close to changing the world, or at least changing a few hearts and minds. Tickets to the Evening of Dance will be on sale soon at www.merrimackhall.com, and I hope you can join us in our mission of changing the world, one barrier at a time.
Debra Jenkins, Chairman