A one-day dance extravaganza awaits families of Highland Park and New Brunswick region communities at the free Young Audiences Annual Family Arts Festival, “Dance for Life,” Saturday, March 21, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the Arline and Henry Schwartzman Courtyard, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), One Robert Wood Johnson Place, New Brunswick. Middlesex County Freeholder James Polos, a resident and business leader of Highland Park will kick off the event, which has captured national recognition by the U.S. Congress and the Office of the President.
This popular family event is presented annually by Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the Community Health Promotion Program of RWJUH, with support from Johnson & Johnson. This is the 15th year of the festival, which will be a closing event for National Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week (YA Week) taking place from March 15 through March 21. This week will honor the contributions the Young Audiences Arts for Learning Network has made to schools nationwide through its arts-in-education programs and to encourage Americans to recognize the important contribution the arts make to society.
Founded in 1973, Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania is the premiere arts-in-education resource in the region, providing high-quality performances and artist-in-residence programs to nearly 500,000 children pre-kindergarten through 12th grade annually. Young Audiences’ extensive professional artist roster represents all art forms—from dance and theater to music, language and visual arts. The U.S. House of Representatives resolution, introduced by Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY 25th District) co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, highlights the work of the 25 participating Young Audiences Arts for Learning affiliates. As an avid supporter of the arts, she states that, “arts education, comprising a rich array of disciplines… is a core academic subject and an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students.” The House resolution also emphasizes that “arts education enables students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills… which supports academic success nationwide as well as personal growth outside the classroom.”
In the letter from the White House, President Obama declares, “Art does not just reflect our Nation–it shapes it. The arts can test our assumptions, spark our curiosities, and drive us toward becoming a more perfect Union.” Speaking about arts education, the President continues, “By bringing art into classrooms… organizations like Young Audiences Arts for Learning ensure America’s traditions of creativity and expression are passed on to the next generation. Opening minds and fostering passions, groups like yours cultivate appreciation for art in all its forms and reveal its power to help young Americans re-imagine challenges not as barriers, but as creative opportunities.”
This year’s “Dance for Life” theme features performances from multicultural dance troupes, hands-on dance workshops, and even an on-site health fair focused on childhood health and wellness issues. Children of all ages are welcome, accompanied by a parent/guardian or their favorite adult. “Dance is not only a beautiful art form, it’s also a great form of exercise,” said Larry Capo, President & CEO of Young Audiences. “We hope that our talented performers and our workshops will inspire children and their parents to learn more about dance, and also find fun new ways of being active and healthy together as a family.” This year’s Family Arts Festival events features the extraordinary talents of both professional and amateurs dancers: The Seventh Principle – a one-of-a-kind contemporary dance company that The Star Ledger calls “headed for success…a fresh take on African culture in a modem world.”
The company’s main objective is to heighten awareness of African dance and culture through creative expression of this unique art form. In addition to their focus on African dance in contemporary culture, The Seventh Principle also addresses current themes that reflect the role of an “African in America.” The power of the number “7” is present throughout Africa in astrology, numerology, mythology and custom. The company name comes from Kwanzaa, a celebration of African heritage and values that includes seven principles as a system for daily living. Hip Hop Fundamentals – B-Boys (breakdancers) who educate and inspire through interactive workshops, dynamic assembly shows and Hip Hop lecture demonstrations. By using dance, music, theater, activities and audience participation, they work to educate and entertain students of all ages. Hip Hop Fundamental’s educational programs stress respect, youth empowerment, health and fitness, cooperation and active learning. Since 2004, the company has performed hundreds of shows across the United States for all school levels, community sites, and youth camps. The Hungarian American Athletic Club Folk Dance Group is a division of the Hungarian American Athletic Club and was founded in 1992 in Somerset, NJ. This children’s dance group consists of Hungarian American’s who embrace their culture and heritage regardless of their ability to speak the language through song and dance.
The mission of the group is to teach dance, rhythm, movement, and music specific to a particular region of Hungary whereby preserving this “unique art form” for generations to come. From year to year, the program focuses on new dances and new choreography. The dance group has about 30 children ranging from six years to 14 and allows for a continuous progression of skill and ability as the children move respectively from one age group to the next. Rutgers Bhangra is a South Asian dance team at Rutgers University dancing in the style of Bhangra that originated in India. Rutgers is the birthplace of collegiate bhangra, and Rutgers Bhangra won the very first Bhangra Blowout competition in 1995. The dance team is dedicated to spreading the joy that the dance form brings to their dancers out to the general public. Funktion Dance Complex – The Beat Club is a family of dancers, from the FUNKtion Dance Complex in Edison, NJ led by Eric Samson, that use their creativity and positivity to “beat” life’s negative pitfalls. The crew studies urban dance styles such as b-boying, popping, hip-hop (90’s hip hop), house, locking, and vogue and are also trained in the traditional styles of ballet, contemporary, tap, jazz, and modern. Beat Club members can be seen performing with artists like Chris Brown, Carly Rae Jepsen, Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, and can be seen on shows like “So You Think You Can Dance,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” “The Today Show” and “Saturday Night Live.” The New Brunswick High School Dance Department creates a series of experiences for students to study a variety of movement styles and encourages movement exploration through the technical and creative processes. The dance department works with students, administration and guest artists to cultivate historical and social relevance to movement styles studied and actively engages students in the technical principles of dance, while also providing them with several performing opportunities. InSpira Performing Arts Academy is a dance a music center located in New Brunswick for children and adults. InSpira’s Core Values are: “Inspire, Create, Educate, Honesty, and Community.” These young dancers are required to take multiple dance classes a week, maintain a B average in school, and complete 30 hours of dance community service during the year. InSpira is excited to be back at the Family Arts Festival and hopes to inspire everyone to support the performing arts. Qing Yang Children’s Performing Troupe was established in 2005 and consists of performers ages 10-14. The troupe has won the adoration and praise of many audiences through performances in many New Jersey art shows. Known not only for their graceful and spirited dance performances, the performers of Qing Yang Children’s Performing Troupe deeply love Chinese culture and continue to grow both culturally and artistically. Dance Workshops presented throughout the celebration include:
- Hip Hop Dance – Mark Wong of Hip Hop Fundamentals
- Latin Dance – Liliana Attar & Natalia Cordero
- West African Dance – Candace Hundley-Kamate
In addition, attendees can learn about the classes and wellness programs offered at local dance schools including Dance New Jersey, American Repertory Ballet, Lustig Dance Theatre, FUNKtion Dance Complex and more!Family Health Fair will provide information on nutrition, safety, and tips on how the whole family can stay active and have fun together. The Family Arts Festival is free, and open to the public. Registration begins at 12:30. For more information go to http://www.yanj-yaep.org/family-arts-festival-2015/ call 1-866-500-9265 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Young Audiences’ funded programs include the Target Arts Education Scholarships, NRG Creatively Green Family Arts Festivals, Adopt-A-School Program, Artists-in-Education Residency Grants, Dance to Learn and Arts for Learning, a arts based literacy program that helps students improve their reading and writing.Young Audiences New Jersey & Pennsylvania is the first arts education organization designated as a major service organization by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and, as part of the national network of Young Audiences, Inc. was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton. Projects like this and the 4,000 programs provided annually by Young Audiences are made possible in part through a grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State and Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. Additional funds come from the National Endowment for the Arts, foundations, corporations and generous individuals. To learn more, visit www.yanj-yaep.org. To be “social” with us, join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @YANJEPA.