Jacob's Pillow Introduces New Social Dances Program

Durden, in yellow, leading a hip-hop master class for Jacob's Pillow students

Jacob's Pillow, one of the oldest and most selective summer training centers for pre-professional students, has added a new program—Social Dances: Jazz to Hip Hop. This program joins the contemporary, ballet and musical theater intensives and will explore the rhythms, dynamics and improvisation of African American-influenced dance forms from June 29 to July 12. Contemporary choreographer Camille A. Brown and hip-hop choreographer and dance historian E. Moncell Durden will lead the social dances program, which culminates in two free outdoor performances as part of Jacob's Pillow Inside/Out series on July 4 and 11.

Photo by Karli Cadel, courtesy of Jacob's Pillow

Layeelah Muhammad, courtesy DAYPC

This summer's outcry to fully see and celebrate Black lives was a wake-up call to dance organizations.

And while many dance education programs are newly inspired to incorporate social justice into their curriculums, four in the San Francisco Bay area have been elevating marginalized youth and focusing on social change for decades.

GIRLFLY, Grrrl Brigade, The Alphabet Rockers and Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company fuse dance with education around race, gender, climate change and more, empowering young artists to become leaders in their communities. Here's how they do it.

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Teacher Voices
Getty Images

I often teach ballet over Zoom in the evenings, shortly after sunset. Without the natural light coming from my living room window, I drag a table lamp next to my portable barre so that the computer's camera can see me clearly enough. I prop the laptop on a chair taken from the kitchen and then spend the next few hours running back and forth between the computer screen of Zoom tiles and my makeshift dance floor.

Much of this setup is the result of my attempts to recreate the most important aspects of an in-person dance studio: I have a barre, a floor and as much space as I can reasonably give myself within a small apartment. I do not, however, have a mirror, and neither do most of my students.

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Allie Burke, courtesy Lo Cascio

If you'd hear it on the radio, you won't hear it in Anthony Lo Cascio's tap classes.

"If I play a song that my kids know, I'm kind of disappointed in myself," he says. "I either want to be on the cutting edge or playing the classics."

He finds that most of today's trendy tracks lack the depth needed for tap, and that there's a disconnect between kids and popular music. "They have trouble finding the beat compared to older genres," he says.

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