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An Education in Connection

5 Aug

A room in the basement of the Met is filled with little kids barely higher than my waist, most in pink leotards and some with frilly tutus. Tchaikovsky’s soaring score, from Swan Lake, fills the room as the children flap their arms like swans. The parents are sitting along the mirror alternately cooing and snapping pictures of their children on their smart phones. It is barely eleven am on a Saturday, a time I would scarcely see during my college days, and yet I am very happy to be there. The scene I have just described is from American Ballet Theatre’s Pre-Performance Workshop series, aimed at helping young kids understand the ballet they would see later in the afternoon.

Some people my age would be unable to handle the number of youths around them. I am, instead, invigorated by it. Ever since I taught my first class at the age of thirteen, I have loved working with younger kids. Therefore, this summer, I wished to be an education outreach intern for ABT with the hopes that I would soon understand how a major ballet company seeks to inspire the next generation. I am starting to understand and in doing so, have fallen in love with ballet again, myself.

ABT makes it about the story. Especially for the youngest kids, getting them to understand the story is important. During my first experience with a The Sleeping Beauty pre-performance workshop, the teaching artists had the little kids dance out the dramatic scene between the King and Queen, the evil Carabosse, and the Lilac Fairy. They would shake their arms in fury like Carabosse and then make a pleading motion like the King and Queen. By letting them dance to the music and learn the story beforehand, ABT hopes to make it personal for the children so that when they see the performance, they will recognize it and have a connection. And that is main reason why I pursue different forms of art: for the connection.

I have been a part of an arts program ever since I was ten years old and even though I was interning at ABT, I still woke up early to help teach tap classes for them. And being around the dancers and staff at ABT, I know why I keep returning. It is because a connection through the arts can create second families, second homes. It is the cause of why even though Julie Kent has retired from dancing, she has not left the ABT family and she can still be seen milling around the education offices, helping them to bring new initiatives to life. I consider myself lucky to get a chance to be a part of this world. It has reaffirmed my belief that I never want to leave the arts.

Nicole Wong

Education Outreach Intern

Summer 2015