Housatonic, MA — On Sunday, Dec. 9 from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m., Berkshire Pulse—the dance and performing arts education center based in downtown Housatonic—will host a works-in-progress performance of choreography created by teen students in the Young Choreographers Initiative (YCI) at Saint James Place (352 Main Street, Great Barrington). The presentation will feature group and solo works, including improvisations and in-the-moment choreography involving audience participation. The work explores issues that matter most to the students, including sexual assault, consent, and explorations of gender.

The YCI is an empowering project for high school age dancers that builds confidence, inspires collaboration, encourages creativity and allows free expression. The YCI launched in summer 2016 with workshops led by teaching artists Susan Quinn and Ian Spencer Bell, and it has since expanded into a year-round program at Pulse. The YCI is supported in part by a grant from the YouthReach program of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

This fall, YCI Director Susan Quinn worked with students to explore the connection between movement and social activism. By combining movement and activism, YCI gives young people a voice and a forum to express their viewpoints through the art of movement. “These students all have things they urgently need to express,” says Quinn. “They need a way to voice them and be heard.”

Together, the young dancers chose sexual assault as the issue on which they wanted to focus. “The students researched the topic and shared their findings,” Quinn explains. “This naturally led to discussion and journaling about what consent is, how survivors are often blamed or not believed, and brainstorming how to prevent sexual assault. The movement invention and structure of the piece was generated from the discussions, their feelings, and their writing.”

Pulse Artistic Director Bettina Montano is particularly impressed with the participants’ use of dance making as a way to express their views. “At Berkshire Pulse, a primary focus is to help young people find ways to express themselves through movement,” she says. “Whether exploring joy, frustration or fear, our goal is to provide a safe place for creativity and expression within the learning experience.”

The performance takes place at Saint James Place, 352 Main Street, Great Barrington. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $10-$20. All donations will assist Pulse to further launch and foster educational workshops and events for the YCI. If interested in attending, please RSVP to berkshire.pulse@gmail.com

About Berkshire Pulse:

A dynamic nonprofit dance, world music and movement arts education center located in downtown Housatonic, Berkshire Pulse’s year-round programming provides children, teens and adults with the opportunity to engage in the joy of movement and music while learning the rewards of commitment, community involvement, and the vast benefits of artistic expression.

(press release sent to WSBS from Berkshire Pulse for online and on-air use, article image taken from Berkshire Pulse's Facebook page)

Feature Image Photo Credit: © Susan Quinn