Arts in Action: Summer DanceLab

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What role do the arts play in the lives of young people today? Here’s a short take on what’s happening in the arts now, through my perspective as a dancer.

By April Owens, writing editor

This year, I went to the 31st annual International Association of Blacks in Dance conference in Dayton, Ohio. While I was there, I took classes ranging from classical ballet to Precision with the Rockettes. My highlight of the trip was the 2019 scholarship audition. 

There, I earned a generous scholarship to a four-week summer intensive with Ngoma Center for Dance to Summer DanceLab, a 4-week intensive dance training that is part of the Ngoma School in the Washington DC metro area.

The school’s stated goal is to “empower a generation of young artists to be the change agents of their community.” It is also the resident school of Dissonance Dance Theatre, DC’s only African-American managed, and nationally-recognized contemporary ballet. Dissonance Dance Theatre was founded in 2007 by Shawn Short and was named one of the “11 small-but-mighty dance companies outside of LA and NYC” by Dance Spirit magazine.

Summer DanceLab is in its fifth season. It is held in the Clarice Center for Performing Arts at University of Maryland College Park, which is just a few miles east of DC. I got the chance to visit this beautiful facility in February when I was visiting family. I found out that the Clarice Center is not only a performance space, but also had many well-kept studio and classroom spaces for dance, music, and theater, used by college students, community groups, and visiting artists during the academic school year.

The Clarice Center houses the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, which contains the campus’ extensive music, theatre, and dance materials. This is especially great because as part of DanceLab, we are exposed to dance history and have access to the library’s great resources. It also has beautiful well-lit spaces with comfortable couches and chairs to just relax and read!

Thank you IABD and Ngoma Center for Dance for this incredible opportunity!

For more information on the International Association of Blacks in Dance and their annual conferences, visit:

For more information on Dissonance Dance Theatre and Ngoma Center for Dance, visit:

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