Hear from a volunteer: Photographing an Urban Gateways dance residency

By volunteer photographer Alayna Kudalis


Have you ever tried to learn a specific style of dance? Hip hop, ballet, jazz, folk or anything else? Well, I can tell you that I’ve made attempts in the past to learn to dance in different ways, shapes and forms and have more or less failed pretty miserably at them all. I’m sure everyone here reading this can appreciate a good performance, though some of you may side with me and have found more success in different forms of creative expression. I instead have found my main niche in photography and I have fun dabbling in drawing, painting and multimedia.

I recently had the pleasure of photographing an ongoing Urban Gateways Mexican Folkloric dance residency at Greeley Elementary on Chicago’s north side. This program, taught by Mr. Salvador Cisneros, began October 7 and will run to the end of the school year on May 16. Spoiler alert: I was super impressed.

I arrived at the school a little unsure of what to expect as I had never photographed a dance residency for kids this young before. Mr. Cisneros started by leading the students in warm ups and review of steps. Soon, the music started and the real fun commenced. The kids started by going over dances learned in past weeks, then added new steps. Every student showed so much skill and enthusiasm. Occasionally Mr. Cisneros would lead them in exercises like balancing books on their heads (to help with their posture while dancing), or practicing a section of the dance where students lean towards each other until their noses almost touch by holding a piece of paper between them. He joked around with this last activity, too; while kids were concentrating intensely on bending with their noses close to the paper, he would suddenly pull the paper away so that the students were facing each other – which they found hilarious. The whole class was very lighthearted and lively. Being a younger photographer and a recent college grad, I’ve definitely taken relatively dull and monotonous work for experience. It’d be really great if all the photos I took were in this kind of environment!

I was so impressed by these elementary school students, I can only imagine how awesome they will be by the end of the school year!



Me: What do you like about this class? Student: Dancing is fun but now [after class] I am very tired. I like dancing with my friends.



Many thanks to Alayna for contributing her photography skills to spread the word about arts education!

Urban Gateways would like to thank the following sponsors for their generous support: