November 05, 2020 Category: Stories

American Ballet Theatre at Fresh Air Summer Spaces: Bringing Movement and Joy to NYC Streets

This summer, across New York City, children explored the joy of dancing with workshops led by the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) at Fresh Air Summer Spaces program sites.  

ABT teaching artists encouraged students to learn through movement and inspired youth to express themselves through dance. At the workshops, the kids started with stretches and moved on to learning about the five basic positions in ballet – focusing on balance, arms and feet positioning. 

American Ballet Theatre (ABT) teaching artists led workshops helping children to express themselves and learn through movement.

While the children were very eager to learn, the instructors may have been even more excited for the opportunity to share their art and engage with young people while being outside.  

 ABT teaching artist, Briana Reed, with children and staff at the Harlem Fresh Air Summer Spaces site.

“I was most excited about being outdoors – doing and sharing what I love. I believe that movement is medicine for the body and the soul. I was excited to hopefully share some of that joy with the children participating,” Briana Reed, ABT teaching artist at the Harlem Fresh Air Summer Spaces site, said. 

With social distancing requirements and a lack of available summer programs due to the pandemic and budget cuts, children in New York City had very few options. With the generosity of our partners, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation and The JPB Foundation, Summer Spaces turned closed streets into age-appropriate play spaces in several communities hardest hit by the pandemic. At ten program sites in four boroughs children engaged in outdoor play with an emphasis on movement, arts and crafts, and recreation-based programming. Children experienced time outdoors, physical activity and social interaction with peers and learned from caring counselors. 

Each ABT workshop was one-hour with two workshops running per day at select Fresh Air Summer Spaces program sites.  

During the ABT workshops at the Sunset Park Summer Spaces site, children learned about feet positioning and balance.

“It was hands down one of the best teaching experiences of my career and undoubtedly the best of this year. To come out of quarantine and to dance in the street was unexpectedly NEEDED. The joy felt during our four sessions highlighted what has been missing during these past months, namely human interaction and creative sharing,” says ABT teaching artist, Adam Holms.  

“The joy on the faces of our dancers could not be hidden behind masks and the amount of material that was retained and put into practical application made my heart swell. As much as I love teaching ballet it was the human contact and time being shared that made this program so special. These activities and programs are exactly what’s needed during this age of COVID-19.”