This year for my out of school service, I volunteered at my dance school, the 92Y, as an assistant teacher for the Junior Performance Team. Throughout the year the class learns multiple dances, which are then performed at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, a community center in New York City.
When I first started class, I was very excited to get started. It was a very large class of kids along with some older kids our teacher called, including myself, ‘Big Kids.’ These older kids were in charge of learning and remembering the dances as well as helping out the little kids in the class. It was really nice to be a part of a group of dancers than simply being myself with all the younger dancers. While we learned the dances, we also learned how to work as a team in small groups creating combos to share with the rest of the class. We even had one dance that was solely student choreographed and taught and another dance that was choreographed by our class in small groups and then put together into one full dance.
One of my favorite parts of this experience was helping out one of the students who required extra help during classes. I have often considered going into education and becoming a teacher. Getting to work with younger kids as well as kids requiring extra help was a wonderful opportunity to learn and understand how to help kids out in an educational and fun way while learning new dances.
In April, our dance teachers, Megan Doyle, Director of the 92Y School of Dance, and Courtney Laine Self, had announced they would be showing a musical they had been working on for a few months over the year, over the weekend. That night, after class, I went to see the show. It was entitled MAKING BOOKJACKET. The musical was a futuristic dance inspired by feelings circulating the country around the election year. I was very excited to see my teachers’ work and loved the inspiration they used to create their musical.
This year for my out of school service, I volunteered at my dance school, the 92Y, as an assistant usher for dance shows. One of the benefits of being an usher is that I can see the performances being shown. It was a lot fun to see the different shows as it exposed me to different kinds of dance that I was curious to know more about or have never seen at all. This experience also brought me closer to my dance community; I discovered that Barry Blumenfield, the dance teacher at Friends, also teaches dance at the 92Y. I was also able to explore different aspects of my community, to see at as more than just a place where I take my classes. Seeing all the various ethnic forms of dance helped me to see it as a true cultural center. As an assistant usher I was also better able to understand some of the behind the scene work that goes into organizing an event.
These photos are from some of the shows I ushered and was able to see:
This was a show called The Laughing Stone, done by Sin Cha Hong, a dancer, choreographer, and vocalist from Korea. The dance was a kind of modern dance done at a slow tempo, almost like slow motion. I had never heard of this kind of dance before and thought it was relaxing to see the slowness of the movements in sync with slow tempo music. It was an interesting contrast in pace from the fast-paced movement dances I’m used to seeing and performing.
This was a show called Broadway Takes Two, done by a group of theater choreographers including Justin Boccitto (curator and director), Megan Doyle, Ryan Kasprzak, Jeff Shade, and Richard J. Hinds. The dance was a mix of theater dance with some tap dance and singing. I especially loved this show because this is one of my favorite kinds of dance and Megan Doyle and Heather Childs were performers in the show. Megan is the Director of the 92Y School of Dance and Heather is the Program Associate of the 92Y School of Dance. They are also both teachers at the 92Y School of Dance and I have known them for a few years. I was very excited to have the opportunity to see them perform.
This was a show called Tamashii no Hibiki (Soul Vibrations) done by the Keiko Fujii Dance Company from Japan with select dancers from New York. The dance was a type of modern dance with ballet with Taiko drumming. This was another kind of dance I had not deeply explored. I had started my study of dance at three with ballet but when I was seven, I started to take Tap and Jazz.
For my group’s YPI Social Issue, we chose teen suicide. Teen suicide
is an issue that has been around for many years. Statistics have shown
suicide is the third leading cause of death ages 15-24 and the fourth
leading cause of death for children 10-14. 19.3% of high school
students have seriously considered suicide and 14.5% of them made
plans to commit suicide. We thought this social issue was something
important that needed to be talked about and addressed. Some of the
related social issues closely connected to teen suicide are bullying,
cyber-bullying, and acceptance of others’ sexual orientation.
The organization we chose was the Samaritans.
The Samaritans was first started in 1953 in Europe, and over the past
42 years has expanded to America. The idea came from the founder, a
clergyman who found that people who came for his help opened up to
volunteers who would serve coffee in his office. Today, there are over
100 volunteers working to help those in need of their counseling.
Because of confidentiality, we were not allowed to visit the center
but met with the Director, Joy Savola at Friends. She told us the call
center consists of four desks and phones in a room. The space may
sound simple, but everyday lives are being saved.
When I first started working on this project, I had a fair amount of
knowledge of teen suicide, and as I continued to do more research my
passion to get word out of this issue soared. Part of this growth was
also from family. While we were working on the project, one of my
father’s cousins passed away by suicide. This greatly devastated my
family because we’re all so close knit. With this loss, I became more
and more determined to tell people about teen suicide and how it can
be prevented and how lives can be saved.
Over the course of the project, I learned many new things about timed
presentations. I learned how to condense information correctly and
limit text. One of the challenges was memorization. Often, if I don’t
know a script by rote, I can’t relax and present my slides; I had to
work hard to remember what I needed to say and be sure not to take too
long. It was very rewarding to know so much about such a sad issue and
to have such a passion and drive to tell people about it. I hope to
give donations and promote awareness about the Samaritans.