It all starts with a beat—a pounding rhythm and melody that gets you moving. Whether you are dancing or singing, music is an art form that brings people together. Earlier this month, Spring Creek Teen Central decided to broaden their Teen Vision (TC Vision) Media Arts program by developing a dance and music initiative with professional artists from Apollo Theater.
Teen Central Director, Lonai Mosley, observed the members apt interest in music, which was often displayed by dancing and singing in the halls. Mosley wanted to help the teens cultivate their talents with a structured class, so she collaborated with Apollo Theater’s Teaching Artists in residency program. The renowned Harlem-based theater has played host to great musicians such as Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole as well as launched the careers of The Jacksons and James Brown. For over eighty years, Apollo Theater has been a beacon of opportunity for artists, and has developed education programs to help cultivate young and inspiring talent.
According to Apollo Theater’s website, their education program “focuses on four distinct areas of learning and engagement: residencies, workshops and tours for schools; curriculum materials aligned to state and national learning standards and study guides derived from the Theater’s history; career development for teens and adults through the Apollo Theater Academy; and discussions and lectures for the public that highlight the history of the Apollo and its impact on American art, culture and entertainment.”
Mosley believes that Apollo’s program is the perfect catalyst for students to start thinking about their future careers and creative aspirations.
On January 11th, Jennifer “Beasty” Acosta, a professional choreographer with the Apollo Theater, began teaching Teen Central members the basics of hip-hop, jazz step, and break dance. The Bronx native has been dancing for over ten years. She is proficient in hip-hop, break dancing, street jazz, salsa, contemporary, and African dance. Twice a week, Acosta teaches teens on Wednesdays and Fridays from 4:15 pm to 5:15 pm.
During last Wednesday’s session in the Brooklyn Sports Club’s studio, Acosta ran through exercise drills and other muscle building routines with Teen Central members. For many of the members, push-ups and yoga stretches are new methods of exercise. “I am teaching them basic techniques, so that they learn how to develop their dance and creativity,” Acosta told the Spring Creek Sun.
One aspect of the teens training is watching their movements in the studio’s mirrors. “I am here to help them clean up their moves and give them the educational foundation of hip-hop,” Acosta said. Hip-hop formed in the early 1970s and is a form of dance that involves gymnastic like movement accompanied by rapping and deep bass beats. Since many of the teens enjoy hip-hop music, Acosta decided to see what dance moves they already knew. In February Acosta will start break dancing lessons.
“I want my students to feel the beat. To feel the music and then just be creative,” Acosta said.
Twelve year-old Shaela Johnson loves to dance, so she was excited to be a part of the program. “I want to be a professional dancer one day. I really think this dance class is great. We are learning so much about hip-hop,” said Johnson.
Yadhira Rodriguez, 12, was skeptical about the new program, but after seeing how much fun her friends were having she decided to join. “I thought it would be cool to try something new. I really like it now and I get to express my feelings with my body movement. It’s nice that I can dance and not worry about people judging me,” Rodriguez said.
In addition to the dance initiative, there is a Digital Music Production class with Oliver “Steff” Reed, a Grammy nominated artist from the Apollo Theater Education program. According to Reed, the class focuses on, “finding the beat in your voice through digital music production and song writing.”The music class runs every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 pm-5:30 pm.
Teen Central’s Vision program is free and open to teens living in Spring Creek Towers. To find out more call 718-642-7168.
Photos by Amanda Moses