Tag Archives: kids

DFS: 45 (Years), Half a Million (Kids) and 4.5 (Bucks)

It’s Welcome Week on campus. Freshmen are moving in to their dorms, professors are returning to their offices, and the marching band is rehearsing every afternoon.  In just a few short days, UCLA classes will be back session, and Design for Sharing’s free K-12 programs will be officially underway, too.  

Down here in the Center’s offices in the basement of Royce Hall, we’ve spent the last month getting ready to welcome a brand-new crop of students from public schools across our city. It’s a thrill to watch our inbox fill up with RSVPs for our free Demonstration Performances, and hear what teachers and kids are most excited about. 

 There is a lot of great art to look forward to this year, as always, but this fall we’re also looking back on how far we’ve come. For the last 45 years, Design for Sharing has brought a world of creativity and inspiration to public school students in Los Angeles. More than half a million students have experienced performances in Royce Hall or participated in a hands-on arts activity with DFS.

 Check out this photo, from one of our early years (circa 1973, guessing from the hairdos).

DFS_Kids_edited

 The striking thing about this shot is the familiarity of it, the timelessness.   It would be easy to recreate this scene out on the quad before a Demonstration Performance, even now.  The very first season of Demonstration Performances featured chamber music, ballet and Shakespeare.  It was just five performances, and brought around 3,000 students to Royce Hall.

Today, Design for Sharing performances and workshops attract close to 15,000 students a year for a diverse line up of world music, contemporary dance, and innovative theater.

We present artists and art forms that were practically unimagined 45 years ago. We’ve seen trails blazed and envelopes pushed, and we’ve shared it all with eager young minds. We’ve been surprised, an often moved, by how students connect with ideas that are not just new to them, but new to everyone.  And still, there’s a sense of continuity. The smiles, the uncertainty, the excitement and curiosity—we still see all of that at every event we host (and the UCLA students still lounge under the portico arches).

It’s still a little bit magical.

Over the years, we’ve had to evolve, not just artistically but logistically, too.  We’re not just providing free performances any more: we’re subsidizing buses. Transportation seems like such a boring, utilitarian thing when we’re talking about sharing inspiring art, but for most of our schools, it’s actually the least attainable item on their special activity budget.  So, it’s become a larger and larger portion of our budget. We’re aiming to offer 200 free buses this season!

You can help us celebrate our 45th year, and help us expand our legacy of generosity by adding $4.50 to any CAP UCLA ticket purchase. There is an automatic option to make this gift when you buy CAP UCLA performance tickets online, or you can add it to any phone order placed at the UCLA Central Ticket office.

 The cost of a DFS Demonstration Performance in Royce Hall—where kids often take their first seats in a professional performance space, have their first interaction with professional artists and get their first glimpse at a college campus—averages less than $20 per student, including bus transportation to UCLA.

 A lot has changed since our visionary founders started us on this journey back in 1969, but our core mission remains: we continue to make world-class performances available to young audiences; we continue to welcome thousands of students to our beautiful campus each year, and we will always be excited when a bus load of kids get to see something wonderful and new.

 Our next year of sharing the arts begins on September 25, with DakhaBrakha. More than a thousand students will experience this group from the Ukraine. They’ll see instruments and hear sounds and songs they’ve never encountered before.

You can check out the rest of our events here.  We hope you’ll join us–everyone’s welcome.

A Little Versa Style Hits Royce Hall

Today, Versa Style Dance visited the Royce Rehearsal Room for a series of Design for Sharing workshops with fifth and sixth graders. Their work is an infectiously energetic blend of hip-hop, latin and afro-latin styles.  The company aims to elevate social dances–the moves spotted on street corners and quinceneras, on dance floors and school yards–of Los Angeles, counteracting the many misrepresentations and misconceptions of hip-hop and popular dances in the process.

IMG_4145

They covered a lot of ground.  There was salsa dance and popping and locking. There was a quick primer on ’90s hiphop and today’s internet-fueled hits likeThe Nene and The Whip (don’t worry, we didn’t know about those either–we’re still trying to learn the dougie).  There was a Soul Train tribute that had everyone dancing in their seats. No matter what they were doing, it was impossible to watch this young company, practically buzzing with enthusiasm, without a smile.

When Versa Style shares their work with student audiences, they also share a message of hard work, pride in your community, dedication to an art form, and the value of education. Many of the dancers are the first in their families to go to college.  Some are the first to finish high school. One of those was Ernesto, who started after-school dance classes with VersaStyle’s cofounder Jackie Lopez when he was just 12.  He graduates from UCLA’s World Arts and Culture department in June with a minor in Arts Education.  Our kids thought that was almost as impressive as his moves.

There were some pretty important take-homes for the 11 and 12 year olds in the audience today.  But for us, and for the company,  this morning was all about joy.  Joy in movement, joy in sharing, joy in inspiring and supporting a new generation of artists. Joy in bringing our whole selves when we do the things we love, on stage and off.

More shots below of the joy in full effect. All photos by Phinn Sriployrung.

IMG_4142 IMG_4143 IMG_4144 IMG_4146 IMG_4147 IMG_4148

A Swell of Pride: Design for Sharing, Community School and Making Arts Come Alive for Kids

Design for Sharing , CAP UCLA’s free K-12 arts education program, has a long history of making the arts accessible for young audiences. Using the arts to encourage creativity, learning and exploration , DFS offers professional performances and hands-on arts activities to public school students across Los Angeles.  Since our founding in 1969, more than half a million students have experienced the thrill of a live performance in the iconic setting of Royce Hall.

In 2008, we undertook a new project, hoping to give students an opportunity to go beyond the one-time experience of observing an arts event and become active participants in the creative process. Working closely with the faculty of the about-to-open UCLA Community School, we developed the Design for Sharing Residency Program: a 22-week series of in-class dance, movement, theater, creative writing and visual arts activities taught by professional teaching artists from Design for Sharing and local dance company CONTRA-TIEMPO.

This year—the fifth of this successful partnership –we explored the theme “Pieces of Us”, asking 200  4th, 5th and 6th graders to consider the various roles we all play in our communities and what helps us to create our own individual identities.

We began, way back in September, with simple exercises that encourage students to express themselves vocally and physically.  We moved on to salsa rueda, a form of salsa danced in a circle with a leader calling out the steps. Later, students applied those skills to devise their own creative movement representing ideas culled from their weekly writing assignments.

The sixth graders, many in their third year with us, also took on the idea of power.  Using movement activities and writing prompts, they reflected on the power structures they encounter every day, how power can be abused, and how it can be shared.  Some of their insights were included in a group poem:

We have the power to choose!

I have the power to speak and to listen

I choose to follow the golden rule

I choose to be respectful,

To be a kind person

I see smiles around the world

I understand that each person is unique

It matters that I have freedom

I have the power to share my feelings

I have the power to change my thoughts

I have the power to defend myself with words

Everyone deserves their own rights

I choose to be joyful every day

We have the power to choose!

Students created collage self-portraits using varied photos of themselves and words from their poems. The completed self-portraits became the backdrop for their presentation.

A few weeks ago, they had the chance to share these lines, and others at the program’s culminating dance and spoken word presentation.  Our students gathered in a crowded auditorium, packed with younger schoolmates and smiling parents to present the poems, creative movement and salsa rueda they had worked on all year.

In that setting, with creaking folding chairs and smartphone cameras clicking away, it’s easy to focus on the cute factor.  Of course it is cute. Kids dancing and reciting poems are undeniably adorable.  But it is important to remember that we have asked these students to do something that most adults struggle with: to think abstractly, express themselves honestly, and create a community where everyone feels safe enough to do so.

We couldn’t help but feel a swell of pride as we watched our fifth class of Residency program participants dance their last rueda, moving around the circle like clockwork.  The dance seems simple on the surface—the steps aren’t complicated, the caller keeps everyone on track—but a successful rueda demands that the participants, both individually and communally, choose to be fully present.  That’s the foundation of human connection and the prerequisite for creativity.  And it’s a lot harder than it looks.