Restoration Dance Theatre Company Celebrates MLK’s Life and Legacy with Dance....

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[Helese TALKS!]

....And I Get a Dose of Nostalgia

Every year at the Kumble Theatre at Long Island University, Restoration Dance Theatre Company (RDTC) puts on a concert to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Brooklyn community and the best of the dance world comes out to support them. I served last year at Youth Arts Academy, the home of RDTC, which serves hundreds of children from Brooklyn and beyond by providing high quality arts instruction in dance, drama, and drumming. I have grown to love these dancers and I appreciate seeing them do what I once aspired to be as a child. They are more of an inspiration to me than they know. I basked the atmosphere of family and nostalgia; I knew many people there.

This year, the most moving part of the evening was when the Director, Ms Peggy Alston, my former boss and my current mentor in the arts, announced to the audience that just that very morning, the choreographer of the piece “Almost Home,” Niles Ford, had passed away. "A fitting title," she said through misty eyes. While the stage went black before witnessing that poignant piece, the energy in the room was completely still for golden moment.

The night quickly picked up when the company members who would graduate that year were honored. This is a ceremony that is done every year at the concert. Parents stand by their child, and the alumni come to the stage as well, representing the shoulders on which the future graduates stand. The graduating company members were introduced warmly by Karen Thornton Daniels who is the artistic of the director of the company, as her “babies.” Each parent gave their child flowers and got to say a few words of how proud they were. The most tear jerking story was from Mrs. Flenory, mother of Kishana Flenory. She became a mother at the age of 16. “People thought we weren't going to make it,” she proclaimed with pride and tears, but the mother and daughter obviously proved the naysayers wrong. Besides being a hardworking and passionate dancer, Kishana is a beautiful, intelligent respectful girl who will undoubtedly continue to prove all haters wrong.

Every single company member along with all the children of YAA are special to me and bring something unique to their craft and the energy of Restoration itself. Without them Restoration wouldn’t be the most infuriating yet intoxicating place to spend a Saturday (which is when over 200 children come to take their arts classes). Actually, it’s possible that it’s the parents that drove me even crazier than the kids when I was there. No matter what it was, it cannot be denied that the dedication of the tireless Youth Arts Academy staff, the generous parent volunteers, and the enthusiastic youth who love dance with all of their heart are truly the spirit of Restoration. I know the late Niles Ford's spirit was in the midst that night.

The ChoreoQuest Program, a mentoring initiative at Youth Arts Academy, helps support the choreographers who then work with and mentor the young dancers. Ten years from it’s beginning, it continues to complete its mission of keeping the work of dancers who have passed alive. They definitely made me feel like ancestors were in the room. And like me, from my seat in the third tier of the theatre, I know they were looking down on them, and smiling.  

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