It All Starts at Home

There is a Proverb that says ‘Train up a Child in a Way He Should Go and when he is old he won’t depart from it.’ I never realized how true this statement was until I started teaching and dealing with young people. When you teach a child at a young age manners, right from wrong and your expectations those lessons follow them.

A few nights ago I was at a community meeting. The parents were invited but only a few showed up. The children in the area did show up which was great. I loved interacting with the kids but I have noticed from working with students that much of the home training is not happening.

The language both physically and verbal leave much to be desired at times. They are heavily influenced by music and music videos that often give a distorted view on life. This is the MTV and BET generation. Reality tv shows dominate programming. Many of the students I spoke with rarely read newspaper and magazines.

This overflow of pop culture without the proper training at how leaves cracks in their behavior. I was encouraged that the children showed if even if the parents didn’t. Our children do want to learn especially if we are consistent, “real” as they say and make it interesting.

This promises to be a challenging year that I hope to share with you. Feel free to pass along any tips you might have in regards to working with youth.


Being a Good Friend

This past week I left my power chord to my computer at a friend’s house. I didn’t realize it until I got home so I missed a few dance of posting. I am so glad to be back online.

One of the aspects of Martin Luther King Jr’s life that I really appreciate is that he was a good friend and a good neighbor. Many of us see needs in today’s times but we do little if anything about it. We don’t realize that small acts can really help others. Dr. King was a good neighbor by trying to improve the lives of people. He was murdered trying to help others.

There was segregation and blatant hatred in his lifetime. But that didn’t stop Dr. King from doing his part and organizing supports to help out fellow man. Dr. King was known for being a great speaker and I love hear his I Have a Dream speech. However Dr. King didn’t just talk the talk he walked the walk literally. Those marches opened doors that I see everyday. The most obvious is our new president Barack Obama.

Dr. King was proactive without being aggressive. He kept his eyes on the prize even in the most daunting obstacles.

I think about that while I am planning Why We Dance 2010. There have been so many obstacles in terms of money, support and planning. But I am emulating my friend Dr. King and keeping my eye on the prize despite everything else. I never met Dr. King, never saw him speak live but I feel his presence when I think about all the wonderful things I am able to enjoy due to his sacrifice.

My education at a top school, eating at any restaurant I want, having friends from diverse backgrounds even the right to vote comes from the sacrifices of our ancestors. I believe that putting on a free dance program that teaches and encourages praise dancing will help others.

Dr. King never gave up and neither will I.

Helping Our Neighbors

In the midst of playing Why We Dance 2010 I was watching the news. It seemed like an ordinary evening and was absorbed in my own problem. Then I caught the first reports of an earthquake in Haiti. It was brief and the newcasters didn’t convey the gravity of the situation. Fast forward a few hours and the true devastation was revealed.

The capitol city Port au Prince was destroyed by the earthquake and thousands not hundreds as earlier reported are feared missing or dead.

Some reports say 100,000 people cannot be accounted for. before this tragic event Haiti is a poor country in the Caribbean and this earthquake said to be a 7 on the scale has made the situation worse. Haiti hasn’t seen an earthquake this bad in more than 200 years. Facebook, CNN and Twitter are filled with images of hurt people.

The news report I watched last night advised people to be careful when donating. The Red Cross was listed as a reputable place to send money to help the people in Haiti. The American Red Cross was listed as a reputable place among others. I have copied a link below that has information on how we a community can help out neighbors in Haiti get through this.

Helping Our Neighbors in Haiti

Networking 101

I want to give a big shout out to my friend Geri who introduced me to two amazing dancers last night. Gail is what is called a Warrior Dancer. She is a teacher with a vast knowledge on the use of praise garments. Quincy Pronker is a wonderful young man who runs his own Christian dance studio  Work of Art Dance Theatre with his mother Gerda.  As dancers and leaders we were all on the same page about the importance of the Biblical teaching in liturgical dancing.

The girls in the class were excellent. They were dancing to a fast paced Kirk Franklin song.  Quincy wanted us to meet at his school so that I could get an  what they do at the Art of Dance in New Brunswick. I also met another dance leader at his studio Leilah Bower.  We also exchanged numbers.  Leilah instructs at the studio and is in the productions.

The students are taught dance from a Biblical perspective. His company is made up of three segments:  the dance school,  the junior company and his professional company. I am going to ask him if I can post a few photos from his Christmas show. But you can check out his Website at:

It is my hope that Quincy can be a part of Why We Dance 2010. If he can’t he said he will send someone in his place.  I love liturgical dance and if you haven’t seen it looks like modern dance with ballet sprinkled in.  I will be posting excerpts from our dance program so that you can see the dancing.

I have been asked to work with a community group and bring dance to them. I had previously wrote how they want to do hiphop and love the dancing that comes from the videos. I was uncomfortable with that aspect but I wanted to keep an open mind so I did some research.

The song lyrics overall are extremely sexual in content and the videos depict relationship (and I use that word loosely) between people in the most shallow way. There is a lot of club scenes and house parties in these videos. I really didn’t feel I would be able to put away these images to give the students what they want.

The meeting I had with Quincy, Gail and Geri helped me see that I needed to give those students what they need.  All of these individuals were encouraging and offered to be a resource to me. Quincy has invited the community girls to visit one of his classes. These teenage girls are the same age as the community students so I know they can relate. I plan to talk to the community leader about this invitation when I see her tonight.

After our meeting even though the hour was late I was refreshed.  Sometimes as leaders we need to have a meeting of the minds to refresh ourselves.

Open Up Their Minds

I have am important meeting today in regards tothe dance program I am putting on March 27, 2010. Organizing events like this is time consuming but I get a lot of pleasure out of bringing people together. Good teachers never stop learning or pushing themselves and their students. Good teachers have and keep an open mind.  Why We Dance: Reaching the HipHop Generation 2010 gave teachers and students another perspective in liturgical dance.

This past weekend I spent some time looking up the lyrics to the words of songs that I plan to choreograph. I like the movement to have meaning. My second grade class is doing a tribute to Michael Jackson. I choose the beautiful song Heal the World. This song has some deep lyrics regarding people and the environment.

Last week I told you about a dance group I am working with who wants me to work with them. They gave suggestions of songs they would like to dance to.  I have to start by saying that I listen to the radio (WBLS, Hot 97 and Kiss FM) but not so much because I am always creating dances so I spent the time in my old car using my CD player.

When I looked up the words to our more popular R&B and rap artists I was shocked at their explicit lyrics. Where is the love? Much of the music is hard core sex, drugs and making money.  I didn’t run across any songs that dealt with improving society. I know that they exist but they aren’t played at lot on the radio or cable so our children gravitate towards the sex songs.  These explicit themes are reinforced by music videos.

The kids I met didn’t know about our great dancers such as Judith Jamison and Alvin Ailey, Katherine Dunham or the Nicolas brothers.  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. Can I get an Amen anybody! Their favorite dancers were Usher, Chris Brown and Madonna. I’m not saying these dancers don’t have talent but they  include a lot of gyrating and extremely sexual movement in their routines. Thankfully they did know (and like) Michael Jackson but they  never heard of Sammy Davis Jr. or Gregory Hines. I didn’t even ask them about Mikhail Baryshnikov or out great dancers from other countries.

The community leader said we have to open their minds. When I meet them this week I plan to provide information on other types of dance. The one problem I find with our young people is that they are so limited in their experience and knowledge of the world.

I wonder if other dance leaders have similar problems and how they handled it.

The Art of Listening

One to the attribute of being a leader in having honed the art of listening. This past week I was asked to lead a community center dance program. The children are a mix of boys and girls and are middle school age. I always try to get the input of students when I am making a program or dance for them. I do this to learn their interests, likes and dislikes and give them the opportunity to get in on the creative stage.

There were three girls and two boys at the event. I asked them about the music the like and rap was the overwhelming favorite. This segued into current events. One young lady said she loved the music and dancing of Chris Brown. I agreed that he is an amazing dancer. She then went on to say that Rihanna deserved her beating because she was did things to Chris that wasn’t right. The other girls chimed in supporting this girls statement.

The counselor and I were shocked at this.  We explained that it was never okay to hit a woman for any reason. The two boys also said the beating was wrong. The girl was adamant  that Chris was in the right. This saddened me greatly. I told her that if she ever found herself in an abusive relationship she should tell a trusted adult.

Parents, relatives and trusted friends should also practice the art of listening with young people. Even at young ages they have definite opinions.  Some of these opinions can be detrimental to their well-being and a parent in many cases doesn’t have a clue. They would be in the know if they talked and actively listened to their children.

The children gave me a list of artists and songs they like. I told them that  I would bring in the words so that they can understand what they are listening to. The art of listening will go one step further because they will have an understanding of the words instead of putting so much focus on the beat.

I will let you know the results of  that experience next week.

Dealing with my Homies

I have to say right from the start that I am feeling frustrated. I am a dance director at the church I grew up in. You may notice I wrote the last part of that sentence in bold because it is important and you’ll see why if you stay with me. I took over the dance group from the previous leader who moved away.

It has been a struggle to keep the group connected. I find that the parents are not supportive of my efforts but expect me to honor my commitment as leader. The children ask to create dances and have leadership positions in the group but then they don’t follow through on their commitments. When I was a child my mother told me it was important to honor your commitment but I find that those lessons are not usually taught to children today.

That’s the part that frustrates me the most —not honoring commitments but expecting the rewards. I have been reading the Bible daily and I came to Mark 6:1-6 where Jesus went to his home town and home synagogue and tried to work with the people there. He was not supported by the members many of whom he grew up with. They worked against him in many cases and showed lack of faith and commitment.  Jesus was only able to do a few miracles at his hometown.

I never really understood that message until now when I am also trying to lead a group from my home church. I can emphasize with the frustration that Jesus felt.  He said “A prophet is honored everywhere except his hometown and with his own people and in his own home.” verse 4 The chapter then goes on to say the Jesus left and went to other villages and the people were more open to him. Jesus gave those other villages the rewards and healing.

Sometimes we all have to move on but we still feel sad that we couldn’t make it work at our home church with our homeboys or homegirls. I’m at the stage where I am wondering if it is time for me to move on. I ask my online friends to pray with me on this.