By Stacy Driks
A handful of Bronx Theater High School students have stepped into a dance they never thought they’d do before.
Amanda Selwyn Dance Theater Notes in Motion continues to give back to the community as it has for 22 years. The renowned dance education program has partnered with Bronx Theater High School for the first time.
“What really unites our programs is our methodology, and what we strive to do, whether we teach fourth, fifth or final, is to combine the technique of dance form with opportunities for individual expression,” Amanda said. Selwyn, creator of Notes in Motion and her dance theater company.
Notes in Motion is a Department of Education provider and nonprofit outreach dance program that provides a collaborative dance experience for underprivileged students at 17 different public schools in New York City, and their list contains 65 teaching artists.
Selwyn manages year after year to create choreography and work with the Department of Education to create fluidity through her dancers at Notes in Motion.
As the semester draws to a close, Selwyn has been running around all the boroughs to attend shows with schools she partners with.
Performance styles range from Bollywood, jazz, hip-hop and West African.
“It’s very special to me because when I was growing up I was doing theater and dance, in schools and in my community, which showed me that it was something that I loved and that I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said teaching artist Rosie Needy.
Notes in Motion anchored its purpose in providing access to communities to promote individual expression through collaboration.
Needy grew up in Ohio in a community that thrived on the performing arts, and like every artist’s dream, New York City is central to pursuing that education. The Big Apple is known to be the cultural center of the world.
“Generally in New York public schools there’s a lack of arts education, you know, the first thing that’s going to be taken out,” Selwyn said.
The education department made budget cuts and the performing arts were on the list. She said many schools don’t even have these programs in New York. According to reports, $15 million was cut from the $21.5 million budget for arts education services in middle and high schools in the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget.
Mathematical sciences and language arts are the few subjects for which the education department finds a valuable need for primary education. The department feels that the performing arts are not on par with these other subjects.
It was shocking for the dancer from Ohio because she believes every child deserves the opportunity to be exposed to the arts. Studio dance lessons and private lessons are not free for most elementary and high school students. Some main reasons are finances.
The Department of Education’s Office of Arts and Special Projects receives a handful of grants for arts programs.
Selwyn said The Riverdale Press without these grants, the program will struggle to pay. Year after year they make themselves known in the community and through relationship building they expand to something huge where schools in the city find interest.
The needy said The press that teaching dance to students who don’t have access to it is extremely important to her because she gives back to the community.
The dancer featured famed Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse, best known for his work in “Chicago” and “All That Jazz.”
He is best known for his choreography in the famous term “jazz hands”, a performance dance that uses the extensions of the performer’s hands with the fingers splayed, moving drastically.
Despite the Bronx Theater School’s name, Needy felt like she started at the beginner level to educate students in dance, but she learned a lot from her students.
The handful of students in her class were linked to Fosse’s song, “Rich Man’s Frug,” and current singer-songwriter Beyoncé in her song, “Got Me Bodied.”
This next class, the students compared and contrasted the two plays, and that’s where Needy’s and the students’ knowledge came together.
Her course was optional as students also had the option of taking a traditional gym class.
The Notes in Motion class tries to strike a balance between creative teaching and trying to give students creative choices. Through exercises and creative exercises, students learn several dance tools.
“Eventually the students learned to improvise and wanted to do a play about sexuality and gender identity,” Selwyn said. “We like to give them (high school students) different ownership opportunities.”
Which is a hot topic in our culture today.
The students wanted to create a dance piece on this topic, it gives them a safe space to explore these ideas and express them through movement. Expression allows them to ask questions and challenges.
“We sit down with the school and try to figure out what the goals of this particular school are,” Selwyn said, “Bronx Theater High School wanted to find a way to bring in some of the strengths that they didn’t have. not in their population.
The school has a lot of theater and music, but not a lot of dancing.
Each school collaborates with the dance program to help their students and provide them with a range of programs that they lack. Every school has a goal and Notes in Motion helps achieve it.