The eighth year of the Queensborough Performing Arts Center’s Gotta Dance programming looks a little different than in years past — the 10-week class will be conducted entirely online.
“It’s going to be different, but it’s going to provide the kids some familiarity, which is really important,” said Susan Agin, QPAC’s executive and artistic director. “This program is perfectly suited for a virtual experience because it is part education, part physical, part performance.”
In past years, the Gotta Dance workshops were hosted at Queensborough Community College, but the pandemic has forced the classes to shift online. Despite the change, Agin believes the program will be just as, if not more, valuable to participants who are stuck at home and in need of art and exercise.
“We want to make sure that they’re getting not only what they need scholastically, or academically, but we don’t want them to be jipped of the art experiences that they usually have when they’re not doing distant learning,” said Agin. “During a normal school situation, children go on field trips and in many cases they come to our theater ... With our programming, they’re still getting what they deserve, which is a well rounded approach to learning.”
The programming is geared toward children 8 to 14 and offers the opportunity to learn choreographed dance recreated from Broadway shows. Past classes have pulled inspiration from “Hamilton,” “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” “Grease” and more, in an effort to introduce the youngsters to the world of theater and musicals.
Broadway closed its curtains in March in response to the pandemic, and will remain shuttered until at least January, leading Agin to believe the beginning of the academic year couldn’t be more timely for the young dance and musical enthusiasts of Queens to participate in Gotta Dance.
“During this hiatus we’re really providing them a Broadway experience,” she explained. “That company experience where you have 40 people on the stage, and the big musical numbers and the experience of seeing all these performers move together in the same space — that kind of experience is really lost during this time ... Because we don’t have that right now, we’re providing them with an introduction to Broadway and getting them ready for when it does reopen.”
The workshop is catered to the age group that would traditionally see their first Broadway show during this time, Agin said, and she hopes to give them a taste of the experience during the pandemic.
The sessions will be led by choreographer Will Porter, who notes that other than a source of exercise and performance, dance is a way to connect with others.
“Dance, in almost every country and culture, is a nerve center of history and identity. As dancers and lifelong students of dance, whether you are just beginning or kicking with the Rockettes at Radio City, we are connecting to thousands of people, cultures, stories, and moments in time before us, just by moving rhythmically to music,” said Porter. “Dance pairs expression with our present circumstances. Dance allows us to tell our own story with our bodies when perhaps we cannot yet find the words.”
Porter noted that during this time, youngsters may struggle to find the words to express what they’re going through, but dance can help them convey their feelings through movement.
“The performing arts is crucial to help kids not only express their feelings in this strange time, but engage head on with their own creativity. In a dance class, students mirror movement, embody a story and develop their musicality,” Porter continued. “Through learning Broadway choreography, we find new ways to tell a story through movement, and to amazing music. Did I mention it’s fun?“
The fall session of Gotta Dance will run on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Sept. 26 to Oct. 24. Another session will be held from Feb. 27 to April 10. For tickets or more information, call (718) 631-6311 or visit qcc.cuny.edu/QPAC/index.html.