Harvard Troupe Visits Local Schools
Students Dance With Cambridge Youths In Teaching Program
Next February, up to 125 students from Cambridge schools will join a troupe of Harvard performers in Sanders Theater to dance a tribute to urban life.
This performance will culminate the work of Citystep, a new arts outreach program which brings undergraduates into local elementary and junior high schools to teach students the art of dance theater. Over the course of a semester, the dancers hope to show the 10- to 12-year-old students how to express their emotions through movement and dance.
Sabrina T. Peck '84, who began Citystep and directs the program, explained, "For the undergraduates, Citystep combines ability to perform and dance sense with a feeling of community commitment."
Beginning today, Peck will lead four teams of four to five dancers into public schools during the school day. The teams will offer two sessions per week to each class of children.
Citystep evolved from a production last April, in which 30 high school students joined the Harvard-Radcliffe Dance Theater dormitories as soon as spring 1986, and interrelated dance scenes. The show played to a capacity crowd for two nights in Sanders Theater and gave its final performance on the mainstage of the Loeb Drama Center as part of the Monday night series of the American Repertory Theater.
Peck, who choreographed and directed the entire production, says that the dancers attempted to convey "how city relationships are affected by the pulse and pressure of urban life." The troupe will continue to incorporate the theme of urban life in the new show it will produce this semester, Peck added.
The overwhelming success of the April performances prompted University administrators to pledge their support for Citystep. Myra A. Mayman, Director of the Office for the Arts, even helped arrange the show's final performance.
The Office for the Arts, together with the Office of Government and Community Affairs and the Office of the Dean of Students, provided over $3000 in grants and loans for Citystep. Although the program still has a long way to go before it has enough money to meet its $15,000 budget, the performers hope that contributions from local corporations and arts councils will meet their sum.
Working With Kids
While the Citystep does seek to improve the undergraduate dancers' performances, Peck explained that the program will emphasize the importance of contact with children. "We don't just want to wow them--we want them to get up and perform with us," she said.
Peck added that when her troupe visited the schools during the Spring, she found that many boys were reluctant to dance at first.
"Some of the boys think that their friends will make fun of them, but once they get excited aobut the moves they learn, it brings them out of themselves," Peck said.
Alan C. Shaw '85, who performed with Citystep last spring, agreed with Peck, saying. "The image that you have to wear a tutu is still there Dancers have been perceived as less masculine, but I think our society is growing out of that attitude."
Shaw's dance expertise lies in breakdancing, which he said is "important in the program's city motif."
In addition to being a dancer and an actress. Peck was the first undergraduate to choreograph the Hasty Pudding Show.
Through her work with the Hasty Pudding, Peck met Norman Yamada '84-5, a composer who wrote half the songs for Citystep's April production. Yamada will continue his work with Citystep this semester. "Last spring, I had the chance to write some unusual stuff. The music wasn't in strict song form, and it all had to serve a dramatic function," he said.
"The music will be different this year because of the kids. We want it to be open and accessible, with a straightforward beat that will be fun for the kids to dance to," Yamada added.
Peck's troupe will work with several fifth and sixth grade classes in the Longfellow, Kennedy, Agassiz and Fletcher schools. Peck holds high hopes for the program's success, saying, "I'm convinced that absolutely anyone can dance."