On June 7th I was invited to attend my old dance schools’ end of the year showcase and let me just say that I left that space feeling so grateful to have been in the room.
I felt grateful to know the performers, to see their growth and see former teachers again. I danced with Creative Outlet Dance Theatre of Brooklyn (CO) for about seven years and took classes in Jazz, Tap, African, Modern/Contemporary and Ballet. Dance teaches you discipline and for seven years my Saturdays were dedicated to dance practice. As we prepared for an upcoming show, some days after school were also dedicated to rehearsal and 9 times out of ten these rehearsals were “full out” meaning the rehearsal space was treated just like the real stage.
Gif Courtesy of Giphy
One aspect of the performance that I really loved was the engagement of the audience, which included myself. I ended up sitting next to a former classmate and teacher, and at various points throughout the show I was near tears. There’s something truly special and moving about what dance does and how it is able to reach an audience. As I watched this time from being an audience member instead of a performer I realized just how special it is to be in a room with people who look like you, people who are rooting for you and most importantly, people who have seen you grow throughout the years and are there to support you no matter what happens on the stage. Whether you miss a step or mess up, the audience is there to push you to keep going. There was a lot of “mmmmm” and “come on now!” coming from the audience and that energy completely took over the room. I remember previous performances and how much audience engagement changed the way we performed, how hearing them scream out our names as we danced gave us more confidence and it was truly an incredible experience.
During each performance I realized just how important it was to have been with a group of black dancers and creatives during my teenage years. Throughout my time at CO I had attended summer intensives with other dance companies, but when I came back to Creative Outlet I realized that the energy at those other spaces wasn’t the same. I think when you grow up with people you build a bond, and for me, CO was my second home and family. In the classroom we were always taught to push ourselves and if we were giving 100 percent, then there was another 50 that we had in us. The hard work and dedication that was displayed in the classroom translated to us just having a good time on stage when it came time to perform. Feeding off on one another’s energy was always something that our teachers reminded us of and pushed us to do during rehearsal and I could see that same transfer of energy during the showcase. At the end of the show I reconnected with former classmates and congratulated them on an amazing performance. The experience was incredible and confirmed my belief that dance has the ability to change lives and alter the space and energy in a room. The art of dance also allows for individuals to find their voice and find a spot that they can shine in. Dance allows people to connect on another level and in doing so, creates a community and support system that lasts.
Written By Ashanti Lee
Ashanti Lee is a recent college graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She enjoys writing poetry and believes in the power of community.