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Hibernian Hall and VLA DANCE launch free classes

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Hibernian Hall and VLA DANCE launch free classes
VLA DANCE company members performing at the Hibernian Hall Season Premiere, March, 2020. PHOTO: COURTESY VLA DANCE

On Monday, July 6, VLA DANCE and Hibernian Hall launched their “Summer Online Movement Series” providing classes for young people ages 10–15 and adults. The series runs through August 12 with a packed class schedule on both Monday and Wednesday each week. The classes are free and hosted on Zoom, but registration is required.

VLA Dance was originally part of Hibernian Hall’s in-person summer performance schedule. When COVID-19 changed the way art is experienced, Victoria Awkward, director of VLA Dance and Olawumi Akinwumi, director of Hibernian Hall, decided to turn the program into an online educational opportunity.

The youth program features classes in yoga, meditation and reflections; modern dance; contemporary dance; creative practices; and dance film and dance history. The classes are designed to be both physical and academic. “The classes for the youth program are specifically about how we can talk about dance history in a way that’s not just about movement but also about tying dance to what’s happening in the world currently and what’s happened in the world historically,” says Awkward.

The dance history course will focus particularly on dancers of color, such as Alvin Ailey and Pearl Primus, who are typically overlooked in dance history. Participants of all backgrounds are welcome to take advantage of this rare opportunity to see a more well-rounded vision of the dance world. Awkward says there are still available seats, free with online registration.

The adult classes include yoga, conditioning, contemporary practices and ballet. “People because of this pandemic have really been forced to be still,” says Awkward. “A lot of people aren’t walking, they aren’t doing the things they’d normally do to keep them physically engaged.” These classes are designed to get people up and moving in a healthy and fun way, she says. The contemporary practices and ballet courses require dance experience for health and safety reasons.

The adult schedule also includes an hour-long class at the end of each teaching day that’s specifically reserved for participants who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color. This hour of yoga, meditation and celebration of life provides communities of color with a space to breathe and to feel safe and supported.

Akinwumi says, “It’s great to have a space for Black and brown individuals that have been doing this work and need to find a way to release their art and pain and share with others. I think it’s hard within our community to find ways to share resources.”

The adult classes currently cap at 50 people, but Akinwumi says the cap could be pushed up to as many as 80 people due to increasing interest in the program. The Zoom setup will show both the instructors and the participants, but those who are more comfortable turning their screens off are welcome to do that.

“People are waking up to the way that arts have always been important in our lives,” says Awkward. “It’s not just good for health and mental health and enjoyment, it also pushes forward activism and for me it’s always been a way to stand up and make change.”

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