Young people from across the Greater Washington Area showed up in force last weekend, eager to learn from some of the country’s top choreographers at an event sponsored by D.C. native and Tony Award-winning dancer Hinton Battle.
And from the long lines of registered youth and adults, the looks of glee on each dancers face and the puddles of sweat that remained on the floor, it looks like Battle’s “Soul-Dance & BBQ” event scored big points for dance students of all ages.
Battle taught the first class of the daylong event on Saturday, Oct. 17 at the Edgewood Arts Center in Northeast in a one-hour session that gave a group of close to 20, mostly youth, the chance to fine tune the classic movements associated with ballet. Other genres of dance included: hip-hop, tap, jazz, ballet, African and modern.
Battle said he had a great time working with the young dancers.
“This is what it’s all about,” Battle said. “Inspiring youth people, showing them the beauty of ballet and other dance forms, and hopefully, encouraging them to continue to study, learn and grow as artists.”
Sonia Dawkins, executive director, artistic director and founder of Sonia Dawkins Prism Dance Theatre, took over where Battle left off, including both ballet and hip-hop movements into her carefully crafted choreography.
“Teaching the essential joy of dancing is what I’m all about – not just the technique,” she said. “The goal for all of the teachers today is to light the spirit and soul of dance in every student, no matter what their age or proficiency. And it’s nice to see so many people of color out today. I just wish more of them could continue to be enriched even further by working with choreographers and teachers who have mastered their craft.”
Throughout the day, dancers, teachers, volunteers and parents had a chance to refuel thanks to Famous Dave’s of Alexandria who came armed with barbecued ribs, chicken, sides and salads.
One teen, after completing her class with Battle, talked about her walk as a student of dance.
“I first started dancing when I was 10 and I’ve loved every minute,” said Ayana Wallace, 17, who lives in Northeast and serves as a dance captain for Taratibu Youth Association, a locally-based organization that offers youth people an opportunity to explore and appreciate the arts and cultures of Africa and the African Diaspora.
“Today has been so much fun – we just need more opportunities like this,” said Ayana who noted that 18 young dancers joined her for the day.
Four students from the Paula Brown Performing Arts Center in Temple Hills, Maryland, Kya Uzzle, 11, Cori Wise, 10, Lauren Watkins, 12 and Morgan Douglas-Bankins, 10, shared similar feelings about the day.
Almost in tandem they said, “This is different from the kind of dance we’re learning. But it’s quite exciting and a lot of fun too. We’ve learned so much from the teachers. We want to do it again,” they said.
Two young men, 17-year-old Michael Beasley and Fernando Naranjo, 15, expressed their views from the male perspective.
“This has been my first time taking these kinds of classes and it’s really making me consider if I want to pursue this professionally. At this point I’m still not sure,” said Michael who began studying dance three years ago and is taking classes at the Shawn Cosby Theater.
Meanwhile, Fernando, who has been studying dance for the past six years, said “Wow, learning from the pros – this is awesome.”