Monday, January 20, 2014

Embody the Dream

This year I celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by attending NJPAC's annual MLK Celebration featuring the Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH). Seeing this company perform was significant for me for two reasons. First because Arthur Mitchell started DTH in response to the assassination of Dr. King and because this is where I developed my love for ballet. When I was younger I attended a local dance studio. My parents decided to send me to the Dance Theatre of Harlem to hone my craft and receive professional training. I fell in love with ballet at DTH! For the first time I saw beautiful ebony ballerinas that looked like me. My training under the iconic Karel Shook, validated my talent and taught me discipline and respet for my gift. My life changed that year so I thought what better way to celebrate MLK then by coming home to DTH.

The event started Thursday with a discussion moderated by Charmaine Warren. The panelists - Virginia Johnson, Michelle Gadsden-Williams, Gabrielle Salvatto and Francesca Harper discussed BLACK BALLERINAS: BREAKING THE BOUNDARIES OF CLASSICAL BALLET. We discussed the need for diversity in classical ballet. African American dancers are under represented in the world of classical ballet as they are in corporate America. We all agreed we need to encourage our children to follow in the footsteps of Dr. King and Arthur Mitchell and be trailblazers. Many of our black swans leave classical ballet because they don't believe they will every get hired. Economically, classical ballet is expensive to see and participate in. I give much credit to my colleagues in the field of dance education who are training and educating the next generation of dancers. Through our daily classes and performances we are educating a generation who we pray will become lovers of dance and future audience members who demand to see dancers on stage that look like them. 

The company performance on Friday night was amazing. Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr. paid tribute to the life and legacy of Dr. King with a soul stirring sermon. The dancers performed with excellence - Agon and Far But Close but my absolute favorite was Gloria which also featured 8 budding black swans. These young ladies raging in ages 10-12 demonstrated poise, professionalism and extreme talent as they represented the next generation of dancers. This piece captured the spirit of Harlem both culturally and spiritually.

The highlight of the celebration for me occurred on Saturday as NJPAC introduced its first Liturgical dance workshop. Theara Ward, former dancer with DTH, challenged us all to dream and then embody our dreams. As we listened to Dr. Kings speech - I HAVE A DREAM, we all wrote down a dream that we had tucked away. I wrote what I believed God wanted me to do in the near future. What came next shocked us all but truly shifted the atmosphere. Theara asked us to dance our dreams. I closed my eyes and danced a prayer. I had prayed that morning about this specific dream asking God to show me the steps to take to bring my dream to fruition. The class was amazing as we weaved choreography into our own dreams. At the end of class we ministered our dreams and I was blown away when a young lady said my dance looked like God was showing me the steps to make my dream a reality. I've written many articles and a book on Dancing My Prayers but this experience showed me the immense power of God when you allow Him in. It convicted to continue to teach the next generation of budding dancers and dance enthusiasts. I am encouraged by Dr. Kings quote "Everyone has the power for greatness - not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service." I pray God will continue to fuel my dream as I work to make it reality. I dance because each and every day as I dance my prayers I embody greatness. I embody the dream for myself and for the children I service.Happy Dr. Martin Luther Kings Jr. Day. Make