Big Thinking - Not Just for Grown-Ups

It is pure coincidence - but an amazing one - that the start of our annual season coincides with the end of the school year. For us, that means lots of opportunities to perform in schools and community organizations and engage with young people. Just as we're starting to express the year's new ideas through dance and music, we have the opportunity to look back at the history of our art forms with energetic, responsive, highly vocal audiences. It's like a 5-hour energy shot that lasts for days!

Our school and community program focuses on this history of jazz dance and music. These uniquely American art forms shape our culture - and Cerqua Rivera's work - to this day, and are a significant contribution by our vibrant country to arts around the world. We think there's no better way to entertain and enlighten young arts-lovers-to-be.

Let's be honest, young people are an unforgiving audience. If we're in a room with 400 bored high schoolers, we're going to know. It takes a special set of skills to create and perform a program that keeps active young people engaged for 30-45 minutes, and I'm proud of what we provide.

The program starts with ragtime and swing music and dance. We invite kids onstage to dance with us. We talk about how these forms developed. Then we begin to "travel through time" and show how these art forms gave birth to the more dramatic, introspective work we create today. This spring we shared segments of Corner Sketches: A Tribute to Miles Davis, which we made in 2016, and American Catracho (part 2), which we made last year. These are deep, sophisticated pieces, but young people get it and their comments inspire and amaze me.

Behind the scenes, we work with each on site staff to customize the event. Will we be bringing live music or recorded tracks? Do they have staff or students to do lighting design? Let's go for it! Is there a technical difficulty and the mic isn't working? No problem, we can get loud.

Last but not least, let me say thank you to the teachers and administrators who welcome us into their communities. I value the relationships I have built with these dedicated professionals, and love to return year after year to continue their students' artistic education. Also, sincere gratitude to this season's new partners for your commitment to arts education: bienvenidos to the familia!

What does all this look like? Check out this video (not visible on mobile devices) from our visit to Larkin High School Academies in Elgin. (Click the Facebook icon in the upper right corner to go full screen)

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