Choreographing a Dance of Connections

Some of our favorite programs stem from situations in which students have the opportunity to experience an art form for the very first time: The impact can be incredible.

Take Lin Shook’s recent dance residency at Ames Middle School in Logan Square, a program with Urban Gateways and Elev8; with just two rehearsals a week starting on April 25, culminating in a public performance on June 14, she worked with four young ladies at Ames to create a dance that turned out to be not only beautiful, but deeply meaningful.

“What was so wonderful about these girls was that they were supportive of each other,” Lin said. “They wanted to do their very best. I would say, look, it’s 6pm and you have to go home! They didn’t want to! They had no dance experience, it was foreign to them, and I thought they did really well. Part of it was their spirit – supportive, they wanted to do it, and they worked hard.”

Their dance project was based around the theme of connections and greetings.

“I did a bunch of activities, like grabbing hands and changing places, and shaking hands,” Lin said. “[We used] gestures of greeting, hello and goodbye. I told them, I want each of you to take a gesture of greeting and make it bigger and change the rhythm. You can change the size, add something extra, elaborate! They saw the process of how you transform daily movement into dance. Then we took all four of their gesture solos and asked, what part do you like best? We created a dance phrase including all the parts they liked best from all four solos. It all came from the question, how do you greet people?”

In addition to choreographing their own dance phrases based on gestures, Ames students learned set choreography from Lin, who taught them steps and phrases throughout the residency. Their final dance combined both Lin’s choreography and their own, giving them a multi-faceted dance creation experience.

Check out their final performance below! One element of the “connections” theme that Lin emphasized during this residency was that you don’t always want to only connect with people like you, and that it benefits everyone to learn to connect with other types of people and other cultures. Hence the two different costume colors.

“One student looked at the video and said, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re really good!’ They felt good about themselves, and what they accomplished was excellent,” Lin said.

Thanks to Northern Trust for supporting Urban Gateways programs like this one!