Experiencing the Spotlight: Teaching Artist Reflects on Student Performance at Art for All Gala

On Friday, March 11, Urban Gateways hosted its 2016 Art for All Gala at Revel Fulton Market; see photos here. This inspiring evening, which raised $340,000 for arts education programs, featured incredible live performances – including a performance by 4th grade Urban Gateways students from South Shore Fine Arts Academy, who participated in a dance residency with teaching artist Amaniyea Payne in fall 2015. The talent and joy they displayed through their African Dance performance left the Gala audience speechless; we asked Amaniyea Payne to tell us more about their performance experience:


“At South Shore Fine Arts Academy, I’ve been an Urban Gateways after school dance artist for the last 3 years teaching grades 3 through 5 every Monday through Friday, with a rotation system that alternates classes and students in a bi-semester form.

The students that you witnessed at the Gala were students I taught from September to December 2015. They were a selected group comprised of students from the two classes taught last year. Each class had their separate performance at the culminating performance in December, so what I did was created a presentation using movements and songs from both class presentations. Students were asked who was interested in performing, [and for those that were] we had a small audition so that a serious edge with responsibilities was required if selected.

The residency, entitled “Natural Rhythmic Movements,” is designed to provide a framework through which students can better understand and appreciate the art of dance as a means of communication and self-expression. It also serves to engage participants in a cultural enrichment experience coinciding with history, music, language, and traditions. In the residency we explore and develop basic dance techniques in the flavor of Natural Rhythmic Movements stemming from African Dance inclusive of contemporary dances of today, jazz, vernacular, ballet, and ethnic dance styles around the world. In the residency we use dance as a tool to help aid in the students’ critical thinking and perceptual abilities, to enhance vocabulary and encourage students to expand their artistic skills. Most of all the residency is designed to engage students in building self esteem and better social relations as well as create an environment that leads to discussions and exchanging of ideas.

The performance Friday night was stunning and very rewarding for all the students, it gave them the inspiration to do their best. As you saw they were extremely excited. They knew they were selected out of many other groups who could have performed, so they understood that they were representing South Shore Academy and they really took that with pride.

This was a new experience for all of them; traveling downtown, waiting in a green room, [and seeing other performances including Artbeat Live! and Ballet Folklorico’s Mexican folk dance performance]…they were blown away. The performance was exceptional, especially when you think of a long day from 8am to 8pm [a full school day followed by the Gala] not arriving home till 9pm. They did great and I’m so proud of them!!!

So of course they were the talk of the school on Monday. The principal, the after school coordinator, the after school assistant, and parents were at the Gala as support. I am truly thankful for our musician Mr. Clifton Robinson, who helps our young [students] to understand that they have to move rhythmically to the beat as well as giving a music lesson from time to time.

All of the students at South Shore in the various classes are extremely enthusiastic and rewarding to work with. The classes and sessions held throughout the years have truly aided in the understanding that a good dancer/student is a great thinker coinciding with the spirit of cooperation and unity to accomplish, achieve, and evolve; as well as a great respect for various cultures and pride in themselves.”





 Photos of South Shore Fine Arts Academy students’ African Dance performance at the Art for All Gala, by Alayna Kudalis.

See more photos from the
Art for All Gala!

Thanks to all sponsors of the Art for All Gala, including:


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