The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills joined with Dance and Dialogue to present a day of dance workshops and facilitated conversations for students from Beverly Hills High School and CHAMPS Charter High School in Van Nuys on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019.
Ricka Glucksman Kelsch, Dance and Dialogue Founder and Beverly Hills High School alumna, told the Courier that the program, which is now in its seventh year, is a dance workshop designed to bring together students from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds through a shared love of dance. The goal is to foster the joy of self- expression, and to break down barriers of preconceived differences and fears among people.
“If you use your passion to get out and make a difference, you are more likely to do it,” said Kelsch as she explained the program’s mission, “It’s about bringing storytelling to dance.”
Kelsch added that she was motivated to start the program because she wanted to help people understand the importance of accepting others’ differences.
During the workshop, which took place from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Wallis, participants took part in small group council sessions, based on the concept of Native American talking circles, where students shared their highlights and obstacles in a “judgment-free” zone. Student participant Makayla Morris, a senior at CHAMPS, told the Courier that she enjoyed talking to the other students in the council sessions. Afterward, the council, the group of about 60 students, came together in The Wallis’ Goldsmith Theatre for a dance session led by former Bob Fosse dance and actress Valerie Pettiford, and a second dance session led by Pat Taylor, Artistic Director of JazzAntiqua.
Also in attendance were Suzanne Charny, original Fosse dancer from the “Sweet Charity” film, and Beverly Hills alumni Lisa Kay Schwartz and Patricia Chen, along with former Beverly Hills High School Modern Dance Theater Instructor Marryl Van Woy Cahill.
Wallis Director of Education Mark Slavkin told the Courier that this is the first year that The Wallis has hosted the Dance and Dialogue. Slavkin explained that The Wallis wanted to team up with Dance and Dialogue because they believe in the mission of bringing people together to build relationships through dance. The students who participate in the program are given complimentary Dance and Dialogue t-shirts to wear during the program. Slavkin added, “Part of wearing the same t-shirts is to show that they are together, one group not separate.” Slavkin oversees GRoW @The Wallis, with the mission to use the power of the arts to address important social issues.