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Dream Big, Dance Hard — Backstage at the Performing Arts Festival



Tomorrow evening, hundreds of Success Academy families and staff will pack into the auditorium at SA Union Square as 170 scholars go through their final stretching routines and vocal warmups backstage. After months of preparation and anticipation, scholars from all 41 SA schools will dance, sing, and act the night away at Success Academy’s annual network-wide Festival of the Performing Arts.

As a dance teacher at SA Bronx 4, I wanted to create a performance that was not only memorable, but would also allow every one of my 11 scholars to participate fully and feel proud of their work. Our piece, titled “I Have a Dream,” was the result of five weeks of rehearsing once a week, focusing on every step, kick, leap, and getting it all down in time to the music.

As a dance teacher at SA Bronx 4, I wanted to create a performance that was not only memorable, but would also allow every one of my 11 scholars to participate fully and feel proud of their work

The music I chose — “Freedom” by Beyoncé and “Symphony of Brotherhood,” by Miri Ben-Ari —  perfectly embodied the spirit of equality and opportunity, a theme that for me was a timely and optimistic response to the tumultuous political climate in our country right now. With its message of hope, Ben-Ari’s song with Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is particularly powerful for a dance performance. I wanted our scholars — and our audience — to take away the message to never give up and to fight for their dreams.

My second and third grade dancers are at different levels, and I work with them individually to master each movement. During the early rehearsals, I had to identify roles for scholars that matched their skills and personalities. Beyonce’s upbeat, fast-paced song required a dancer that had conviction in his movements and a kind of roughness — and Amir fit the bill. Cameron, a more fluid and graceful dancer who’s trained in a modern style, could handle the slower pace of Ben-Ari’s song, while Maylee, who has an incredible level of energy and personality in her movement, was a perfect addition to the first, faster-paced piece.  

Tomorrow when the lights dim for our performance, you’ll see Cameron on stage, flipping channels on the television and hearing only bad news. When he flips it one last time, my 11 dancers will burst onto stage through a cardboard replica television set as the music begins. This dramatic entrance will symbolize them spreading their message of equality and hope to the public, even as they are being bombarded by bad news in the media.

Tomorrow night, I will gather my scholars from their stretching circle backstage. I will give a pre-performance pump up speech as I always do. I may have led this journey from vision to execution but now the scholars take control.  

Hope to see you there! Here are all the details:


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

6:30 – 7:30 PM

SA Union Square Auditorium

40 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003


In the slideshow below, two of my dancers and two of my colleagues offer their views on dance at Success Academy!


Written by Lauren Anderson February 21, 2017


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