Brooklyn Friends’ largest student production of the year takes place, Fri. March 8 at 4pm and 7pm and Sat. March 9 at 4pm and 7pm in the Pearl Street Meetinghouse. Tickets are free but need to be reserved in advance (first-come basis) TICKET RESERVATIONS HERE.
Shining a Light on Students’ Critical Thinking, Artistic Intelligence,
and Passion through Movement at 40th Annual Dance Concert
by Anita Bushell
“Dance desires to be shared,” says Middle/Upper School Dance teacher Jesse Phillips-Fein. “It does not easily succumb to the rubric of ownership.”
Indeed, 65 students in grades 7-12 share the stage as they reach, leap, circle and hold hands in the 40th annual dance concert. The theme of the production is DANCE AND/AS PROPERTY and it features works by student choreographers (including those in IB Dance), as well as guest artists Orlando Hunter (Brother(hood) Dance); Parul Shah (Parul Shah Dance Company); and faculty members Jamara Hill (’10) and Jesse Phillips-Fein (’97).
How does dance become property? This theme, says Jesse, “really came out of conversations that emerged in last year’s dance concert…students were questioning, “Should people who don’t share a specific cultural identity perform a dance from that culture?”
In dance class and rehearsal, students examine these questions while paying tribute to artists Tino Sehgal and Trajal Harrell. Sehgal (born 1976) is of German and Pakistani descent, and studies dance and economics, creating “constructed situations” that model a value system based on humanity, energy, sociality, and memories of the performative experience.
Harrell (born 1973) is a Black American choreographer, internationally acclaimed for Paris is Burning at the Judson Church. Using “historical imagination” in this work, Harrell asked what would happen if a dancer of color from Harlem’s Vogue Ballroom LGBTQ+ scene had arrived in the 1960s Greenwich Village environment of Judson Church, which was experimental, post-modern, and predominantly white?
The concert is so much more, however, than performance only. Students also learn about gaining confidence, dedication, and being part of a community of dancers. Ninth grader Saraii C. said, “The dance concert has a special place in my heart because it has made me come out of my shell …it’s helping me gain a lot of confidence.” She added, “It’s really fun to meet new people and learn about different cultures through dance and it’s really cool to be a part of.”
“To me it means a lot,” ninth grader Bree G said, “because I’ve been dancing since I was young, but I’m also new at this school so I’m new to this experience…I’ve been putting a lot of time towards it.”
Seventh grader Anele T talked about the community-building that happens when performing in a concert: “I like dancing, and getting to be together with other students is fun. The middle school gets to unite with the high schoolers and gets to do something fun with them.”
“We talked about the theme of the concert,” says Bree, “and cultural appropriation and assimilation…and how that connects to the theme of the dance show. Is it possible to claim a dance as your own? ‘Cause it’s not like a physical thing – it’s more like a mental thing you carry.”
“In the BFS Dance Program,” says Jesse, “we are committed to learning dances in such a way that respects and protects their meanings, while also honoring that dance is not static, it continues to change and it changes us. This…production features the creative voices and visions of our students. Their critical thinking, artistic intelligence, and passion through movement is highlighted throughout the show. We invite you to be moved, and transformed, by the powerful work of these young dance artists.”