While close to 200 professional dancers are on our campus for 3 weeks this summer to dance, there is a lesser known program that invites youth and teens from the Lewiston community to join the festival. Our Youth Arts Program is run by professional, experienced, nationally recognized artists and teachers of children along with a few incredibly talented and experienced interns. One YAP intern, Allison Bohman who is completing her MFA in dance at the State University of New York at Brockport, wrote this about her experience working with the YAPers!
The Youth Arts Program (YAP) at Bates Dance Festival is a three-week, non-residential day program for students’ ages 5-18 years old. The students study dance, music, theater and art and have the opportunity to put together and perform in a show at the end with the Professional Training Program at BDF. This year, the students are exploring the concept of SPACE—inner space, outer space; any kind of space…and their explorations have proven just how creative and insightful young artists can be.
The “YAPsternauts,” as they now call themselves, practice collaboration through creating and playing as an ensemble in many of their classes. In combination with all of this team building, students learn to identify a sense of self-expressivity and individuality through the creative process. For example, in theater class, one group of students has been doing character work based on a list of 22 space-like creatures, brilliantly imagined by one student. Within this character work, these 9-11 year olds have explored the question of what inner space means to their particular character. One student, Hannah, writes, “Inner space is something that can be very sad and unforgiving. Like if you did something bad or something bad happened, it would haunt you…your inner space can be gruesome, but the rest of you should live in the moment…I need a time machine.” Poetic and astute, the words and discoveries expressed by the YAPsternauts have been incredible!
These students not only are discovering themselves as artists, but they are learning how to think through the creative process—a skill that proves useful at all stages of life. The daily activities at YAP, whether they be regular classes, flash mobs in the dining hall, or site-specific works, foster an innovative sense of mutual learning that is fun, educational and a happy reminder of how much we all can learn from listening to the creative wisdom of children.