Dance In Schools and On Stage
Chloe Chambers, Ordway 12/13/18
Dance has long been a cornerstone of the Ordway’s performance offerings — but did you know that movement also plays a key role in the Ordway’s education and community engagement efforts? Ordway Coordinator of School Programs Chloe Chambers reflects on the myriad ways dance impacts her work with the Ordway, and on the many ways movement connects us to a broader community.
Since the Ordway opened over 30 years ago, it has been a home for dance in the Twin Cities, from staging classic Broadway productions to premiering commissioned modern dance works from Minnesota-based choreographers. The breadth of dance styles and the volume of performance opportunities the Ordway presents are impressive considering the Ordway is an institution that does not specialize exclusively in dance. It was the Ordway’s commitment to bringing dance to the community that drew me to this position.
Coordinator of School Programs is not the occupation I imagined for myself as a child, probably because I had many, many ideas for my future. I wanted to be anything, from a cake-decorator to an astronomer, a neurosurgeon to a wizard. While most of younger Chloe’s ideas and interests did not stick for very long, my love of dance remained constant. This passion for dance continued from the time I was three years old through my college years, where I still hadn’t determined a career to pursue. Four years at St. Olaf College and one Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in dance and physics later, and I was only slightly further along the path to discovering my career.
An arts management internship opportunity with The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts was the next step in my journey to a career. Arts management had been a field I only considered in passing during my college years. My internship in the education department of the Cowles brought me to my passion in a most unexpected way; my passion is sharing a love of dance with others.
As the Coordinator of School Programs at the Ordway, I have the opportunity to do just that. For over 10 years, the Dance to Learn, Share the Rhythm, and Musical Theater residency programs have been bringing dance, music, and musical theater to K-12 students across Minnesota. Through these programs, students experience the performing arts via a 10-session residency with an Ordway teaching artist alongside field trips to see live, professional performances at the Ordway. The personalized arts experience is what sets residency programs at the Ordway apart. Watching videos of dance or listening to music on the radio is a wholly different experience from seeing the artists live and in person, and what’s more, interacting with them in your own classroom. This year, the Ordway will be working with 900 students from 9 schools across the metro area, ranging in age from kindergarten to high school.
Over this past year, the Ordway hosted 63,500 students and teachers during its school performances; the participation and excitement of students so far this year has been astounding. Already students have enjoyed performances by Minneapolis powerhouse TU Dance, in celebration of their 15 year anniversary. On that same day, at very nearly the same time, students from Ordway residency schools gathered in to watch original dance works by the teaching artists they would be working with over the next few months. In total, nearly 2,700 students passed through the Ordway that day, with one school staying to watching both the Artists in Schools Kickoff and the TU Dance school matinee!
Looking forward to 2019, there are some amazing artists coming to the Ordway’s stages. Weave, a new work created by Rosy Simas Danse, will grace the Ordway’s Music Theater stage in early January. Students who attend the school performance of Weave on January 11 will have the unique opportunity to see the work before its world premiere the following evening.
“Weave is a dance project drawn from the interwoven and interdependent nature of our world. In Weave, individual and embodied stories are the vibrant threads that mesh in a performance woven of story, dance, moving image, and quadrophonic sound. The Weave team brings together an international gathering of Native, feminist, queer, transgender, and people of color artists, working together through the creative leadership, vision, and direction of Seneca choreographer, Rosy Simas.”
The dance-related excitement doesn’t end there. On March 7 & 8, the Los Angeles based group CONTRA-TIEMPO will perform their new piece JoyUS JustUS, an “experience that takes on joy as the ultimate expression of resistance,” for Minnesota students.
“’joyUS justUS’ is an evening length participatory Urban Latin Dance Theater experience that takes on joy as the ultimate expression of resistance. Whenever humans have survived immense hardship and injustice, prevailing with their humanity intact, the presence of joy or, the knowingness and celebration of our true beauty and power has always been at the root. “joyUS justUS” reclaims the dominant deficit based narrative of people of color in this country as being underprivileged, voiceless, powerless, and victimized, and flips it on its head by embodying stories of joy collected from communities of color in South Los Angeles. The stories shared in this work are personal truths about the power of hope, faith, and family, the strength of the villages that have raised our children and the wealth that lives in our collective histories of struggle and resistance.”
This year at the Ordway is filled with dance in all forms, and while it may be a bit hectic at times, I could not think of a better way to pursue my vocation than by bringing dance to the Twin Cities and sharing my love of dance with others.