On Monday September 27th. I went to the Northeast Elementary School in Waltham, MA for the Young Audiences Fall 2010 Showcase. I was greeted cheerfully at the door and there was a name tag waiting for me along with a well organized folder with the day’s schedule of performers.
The performances were spread out from 9AM-1PM running consecutively in four different spaces within the school. Along with the varied PTO reps, professionals and other curious adults, there were lots of children from within the school enjoying the performances. It gave you a real sense of how that age group would react to each performance.
I did a lot of running between the spaces. Each performing group only had 15 minutes to showcase themselves.
I started in the gym with Made in the Shade (Jazz: From New Orleans to New York) for grade 5: There were four guys (guitar, bass, trumpet and drum kit). They played jazz mixed with soul, R & B and rock and roll. They first laid out some jazz fusion (which is a uniting of two pr more styles). For this they played the song “Cantaloop”. They got the whole audience clapping and had a really nice solo guitar section. Next they played some Latin Jazz which is jazz with Latin rhythms. There was a nice drum solo and the clapping was very engaging for the audience. They even did a little silly dancing on the stage, (plus some limbo). They were very energetic and all in all a fun group.
Before they had finished, I scooted off to the cafeteria to see Opera Boston performing for 1st graders who were doing a fine and fun rendition of Little Red Riding Hood. They posed questions throughout there act and engaged the audience by asking for their help. This was VERY engaging for the first graders and had them laughing and calling out answers gleefully. The show was silly and light and made opera very accessible for all. You could see the piano playing accompanist and I thought this was very nice and up front. They had a nice set and I liked their modern take on the costumes. Little red Riding Hood. A children’s opera in one act. Words and music by S. Barab. Vocal score by the composer, etc
Taking a little rest, I remained in the cafeteria to see Leland Faulkner: World of Wonder, being performed for the 1st grade. He started with a brief description of his act and explained that stories are not only in books, that stories can be told through magic. He emphasized that dreaming is the real magic. This performance was utterly magical and thoroughly engaging, I mean for the kids and all the adults in attendance. He started with a large round screen at the front of the stage and from there, with a CD player playing in the background. He did the most fun and amazing hand shadow puppets and had the audience laughing out loud, fully and everyone was engaged by his antics. At times, he would step out form the screen and pantomime and then jump right back and make more puppets. He did a cat, dog, rabbit, rooster, frog, bird, squirrel, llama, deer, a dog chasing a squirrel, a swan, spider, scary face with cool sound effects and an elephant, owl and a very animated parrot to just name a few. There were lots of screams of laughter from the audience. He talked about how to make the puppets and had everyone follow simple directions to make a dog face. He explained clearly about shadows and their relation to light. Much of his act did not need words, his imagery said it all. His show was engaging and humorous. He then started a magic section of his show, but I wanted to check out Odaiko in the gym, so I scurried off.
Now in the gym again, watching Odaiko: Taiko Thunder, performing for grade 5. I know Juni personally as my cousin Diane is involved with Odaiko, but speaking objectively, this is a great show, They had two drummers and a about 4 drums, Juni and her associate were very engaging to the audience with a whole call and response thing in the beginning. They told the story of Taiko drumming and the many uses that Taiko have been used for. As Juni spoke, the other drummer played the drum in the background adding to the pulse of the show. This style of drumming is not only about the extraordinary rhythms but also about the graceful dance like movements of the drummer. Odaiko is full of rhythmic power and graceful beauty. My eyes were riveted to the stge. This show was extremely authentic, dynamic and I was tingling at the end.I loved the rhythms; they made me want to get up and dance.
I ran to the cafeteria and caught a brief moment of Myth Masters: Tales from Greek Mythology, performing for grade 3. They were good story tellers and the show was smooth, but I did not see enough of it to get a good sense of it.
I went to classroom 117 to catch a few minutes of the Improv Boston Anti-bullying workshop for grade 4. They were pay acting a scene and making it very clear that words make a difference; that words can hurt; and that you should think about what you are going to say before you say it and make a choice about your words. They asked for an audience member to come up and join in their improv and tons of hands shot right up. This participant was to say “ding” whenever he saw something in the scene being acted out that he felt was bullying. They asked the rest of the audience to choose a setting for their scene (in drama class was chosen) and off they went. They were silly and larger than life with their getting the point across that words can hurt as much as a slap.
Back on the run, I was in the gym again to see Deraldo Ferreira: Capoeira: Afro Brazilian Music and dace being performed for grade 3. Deraldo is also a friend of mine from the Dance Complex Cambridge, where we both teach classes (I am a children’s tap teacher there and have taught youth to tap dance for 15 years at this location-actually Rozann Kraus, the Grand Puba, pushed me in the beginning to rent the pace and start teaching. Ole Rozann!). Deraldo had flash cards he used that had Brazilian words on them and as he related his story he would hold up the cards and have the audience repeats the words. He gave a very good history of Capoeira, the Brazilian dance style, and on an easel, he had a large map of Brazil. He had very authentic costumes and two dance members came out and did a traditional dance called “Maculele”. It was thrilling and very interesting, even though I thought the space was a bit small for them. The costumes were great and then Deraldo played the drum and sang while they danced. The dancers were very exciting, and they even did some really cool flips. The show was flashy in an authentic way and the kids were thoroughly entranced.
I arrived at 9AM and I am only at 10:25 right now. More to come as I saw 7 more shows!
October 18, 2010 at 9:00 pm10
I was a Young Audiences Roster Artist for a couple of years. They do a good job with the dance programs though I find them much more entertaining then educational, which a 15 minute showcase just perpetuates.
I hope you look beyond this organization. There are many talented and truly amazing artists who understand education and entertainment, who can weave history, language, cultures, and underlying themes into exciting programs.
I created the Spirit of Spain and often bring in a flamenco dancer (La Conja) who has years of experience in these settings for great programs. Not kids music, but real music.
October 18, 2010 at 9:00 pm10
I also perform, educate and entertain with my flamenco, tap and yoga programs. I went to the YA showcase as a PTO representative for my son's school. I am always willing to consider other artist venues…it is more however difficult when you have to look for hire, find out how to critique, what to pay and how to facilitate with an artist that is not on any roster. I do have to disagree: Bambidele, Odaiko, Deraldo Ferrerira were all very educational in seeing their costumes, hearing their languages, listening to the music…every one plays a good role there. Even a good solid 15 minutes is worth something. I appreciate you doing your own thing though-that is what I do.