Above, clockwise from bottom left, Viver Brasil wows the crowd with its interpretation of the African diaspora; and ballet dancers from the BrockUsRED Dance Company give an emotional performance. (Photos courtesy Dave D’Lugo)
It may have been cold and drizzling outside, but the atmosphere at Dr. Maya Angelou Community High was warm and sizzling with energy as students from 46 schools sang, danced, played, acted and entertained during the Youth Dreaming Performing Arts Festival, presented by Local District Central.
In addition to their captivating performances on four sound stages, students attended workshops coached by industry professionals from 18 arts organizations, including the L.A. Opera, San Pedro City Ballet, Center Theatre Group and The Music Center.
“We are seeing the tide of artistic expression representing the essential character and voice of our city,” said Russell Copley, the arts integration specialist for Local District Central. “In a time of change, challenge and responsibility, we are offered a platform for branding our identity as Angelenos through the arts. Our diversity is our strength, and our craft exhibits the interweaving of the threads of tolerance.”
Performances covered the gamut of disciplines, from mariachi to classical music, hip-hop to jazz. Audiences were electrified by Korean dummers, entranced by ballet, enthralled by dramatic and spoken-word performances. Every grade level was represented, from the high-school members from the Rock Music Club at the LAUSD/USC Media Arts and Engineering Magnet to the 40 kindergartners and first-graders from the Riordan Primary Center who danced to “Remember Me” from the movie Coco.
“My students were incredibly happy to be part of such a large collaboration and felt honored to play among such talented student performers,” said Daniel Choi, who teaches English and music at the magnet.
“Our goal as a learning organization is to provide our students with the artistic mediums to express themselves as individuals within the large fabric of humanity,” said Local District Superintendent Roberto A. Martinez. “Over time, artists have played key roles in bringing change and being at the forefront of social revolutions. It is through the arts, the expression of the human soul, that the strongest global bridges of understanding and acceptance are built.”
Participants at the March 10 event also were treated to a lunchtime performance by Viver Brasil, an Afro-Brazilian dance company. The audience in the packed auditorium was moved by the glorious costumes and chorus of drums as dancers performed their interpretation of the African diaspora.
“I love the theme of ‘Youth Dreaming,’” said Board Member Dr. Ref Rodriguez, who represents parts of the central district. “I want our students to dream in the language of the arts, because the arts have no boundaries. They open up so many opportunities. Through the arts, we can communicate with anyone, across the world. The arts help our youth dream big – that they can change the world.”
At the end of the day, 1,400 students joined in a celebratory ‘flash-mob,’ with 13 orchestras, 22 dance teams, five choirs and five theater ensembles coming together to perform “We Shall Overcome.” Music directors and dance coaches had collaborated online through video and file sharing arrangements, then taught the music and choreography to their students, creating a work that honored the heroes from the 1968 East LA Walk Outs and the civil rights movement at large.
“We love the arts!” said School Board President Mónica García. “The arts mattered in 1968 as students demanded a high-quality education, they matter today and we will continue to invest in our youth so that they can express their full potential. We thank every member of the Los Angeles community that supported our artists and each student for committing to their craft.”
Click here to view a KLCS-TV video of the Youth Dreaming Performing Arts Festival.