Students from Warwick Vets High School were part of over 1,200 young people at Veteran Memorial Auditorium last week, experiencing a unique art form that drew them into participation.
Thanks to the folks at FirstWorks Arts Learning Program, students from across Rhode Island, from elementary through high school, experienced the professional dance troupe’s approach to modern dance.
Teacher Tammy Sweeny was overseeing students from special education, civics and vocational training classes, who clamped, stamped their feet and cheered at a hip-hop rap number that the dance group used to entertain and educate them.
“We have been working with the program for some time,” she said. “Perhaps some of our students will be encouraged to pursue the arts, either as dancers or behind the scenes in costumes, lighting or construction, or even as ushers.”
“’Urban Bush Women’ is committed to bringing the untold and undertold histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance,” the lead dancer told the children.
“Modern dance is sort of a rebellion to ballet,” she continued. “We use all of our body to express our feelings.”
The dancers went through a series of warm-ups, using not only bodies, but voices, getting the students to join in. They performed excerpts from their Saturday night performance of “Walking With ’Trane,” their salute to jazz great John Coltrane and his seminal album “A Love Supreme.”
The hour-long program concluded with a questions and answer period, where a student asked why there was one male in the “Urban Bush Women” group, providing an opportunity for a most important lesson in inclusion.
“Look around you. You see all kinds of faces: male and female. All shades of white and brown. That’s what we’re all about: inclusion.”
FirstWorks lists their purpose as “building the cultural, educational and economic vitality of our community by engaging audiences with world-class performing arts and education programs.”
For this, they should praised, supported and encouraged. Reaching out to thousands of school children from Warwick to Central Falls, and introducing them to the joys of the performing arts, is a most noble goal that deserves your support.
The FirstWorks Artistic Icons Series continues on April 10 at Vets with Rosanne Cash and Band in concert with a multi-media performance of songs from her recent award-winning album, “The River and the Thread.”
The concert is a “kaleidoscopic examination of the geographic, emotional, and historic landscape of the American South. Check out First-Works.org for tickets and information.