On Creating a Community
DAREarts partnered with Vancouver Opera to ignite change with Vancouver area youth.
With funding from Northbridge Insurance as well as ArtStarts, TELUS Vancouver Community Fund, HUB International, The McLean Foundation, Dandurand Wines, Cavalier Jewellers and Sandman Suites, Vancouver area schools were able to work with DAREarts on a creation workshop centred on Vancouver Opera’s Don Giovanni. They gathered for two weeks at the Michael and Inna O’Brian Centre for Vancouver Opera – VO’s all-inclusive home in East Vancouver – and created their own version of Don Giovanni, which they performed on Saturday, December 7, 2013. The group was made up of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students; it was the cultural bridging that made this experience all the more meaningful for the kids.
The Circle is an intrinsic part of DAREarts’ teaching, emphasizing the value that everyone is an equal partner in the workshop. DAREarts Vancouver Elder, Mary Jane Joe opened the first Circle with a blessing. She spoke about the importance of connection, the power of the circle, and how the medicine wheel represented all of us and connected us together as one community. She spoke about the importance of Discipline, Action, Respect, Responsibility, and Excellence. The students were then introduced to the round dance. Some of the students had a hard time holding hands but eventually got there. Lead Teacher Shelley MacDonald had a beautiful drum that one of the students handled like a baby. One of the students, Nethaniel, played it and a kind of light filled his eyes. This was not lost on Shelley.
After a vigorous warm-up, the students dove into writing their adaptation of Don Giovanni. Through a “coming to consensus” exercise, the group took fifteen minutes to decide upon their lead character’s age. Through the questions they asked to come to their decision, much was learned about what other character traits the group wanted to create for the character. In groups, the students took on writing scenes. The students were grouped with partners they had been having difficulty to work with. In the closing circle three different students said the most important thing of the day for them was that they learned that they could actually work well with someone who previously they had not been able to work with.
Students from schools Admiral Seymour School, Britannia Elementary, Hastings Elementary, Queen Alexandra, and Lord Strathcona gathered daily to explore music, writing, acting, dancing and singing at the studio in the O’Brian Centre. They met with artists and learned about what an opera is, how to warm up their voices and bodies and how to collaborate with each other. These were kids who didn’t know each other, who were shy at first and a little leery of looking silly. But when singers from Vancouver Opera’s Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program came in and blew them away with their powerful voices, the students quickly rose to the challenge. Colleen Maybin, Manager of Education & Community Engagement, worked with them on their orchestration of Land of The Silver Birch and their overture for their adaptation of Don Giovanni to play at the showcase. Roy Mulder and Mike Siller conducted a workshop on videography and made a stop-time youtube video.
Two DAREarts Leadership grads and mentors, Marlo and Akaiya introduced themselves and their DAREarts story. Marlo talked about how DARE helped him “find his Marlo,” and Akaiya, (who, like, all of these kids was selected to participate,) talked about how she didn’t want to be there at first but she stuck with it. She said, “Darearts changed my life forever.” This was a very powerful moment for the group. It really connected them to their common experience. The students, inspired by Marlo and Akaiya, became more focused on the group work and music making activities. The final showcase was open for family and friends.
This Don Giovanni was a modern twist on the 18th Century masterwork: “Let me introduce you to (Drumbeat roll – MC enters) MC! He is handsome, (pose) a hockey player, (pose) sings and plays the acoustic guitar, (pose) and he’s pretty handy on the kazoo as well.(play kazoo?) However, He is also shallow, (pose) chauvinistic, (pose) perverted, (pose) and a selfish tool. (Pose) And this is his story.” The students’ play was received with laughter, tears and a whole lot of pride.
Shelley said she had asked an Elder in Webequie what pride was, and he told her it was all of the Seven Sacred Teachings rolled into one feeling. Along with the DAREarts Values, Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Respect and Excellence, the Traditional Teachings of Truth, Courage, Humility, Bravery, Honesty, Strength and Love were instilled in the students’ activities and taken to heart. The underlying theme for this gathering of so many kids from so many neighbourhoods and cultural backgrounds was “Community.”
There was a beautiful moment when Shelley stepped forward -and with the help of DAREarts assistant Amelia – told the story of her drum. “I was told when this drum was gifted to me 14 years ago that there would come a time and I would know when I had to pass the drum on.” And then, she passed it onto Nathaniel. Nathaniel held the drum and stepped into the middle of the circle with Mary Jane Joe to drum with her for the final round dance. During the round dance, all became one community. One community to support our brave, beautiful children as they step forward through these years of learning with respect for themselves and others and the means to take positive action in their lives.
One audience member told DAREarts Teacher Linda Carson, “I loved watching the parent’s faces as the students performed. I could tell at first they were not sure what they were going to experience but by the end of the showcase their eyes were full of smiles and proud tears.” The DAREdelegates will reunite in February to see Vancouver Opera’s Don Giovanni. We’ll bring you pictures and impressions as they see what will surely be a spectacular impression on them.
DAREarts Founder Marilyn Field was really taken with how their creative talents shone in their work: “They blended their individual expression with their strong team spirit. I am thrilled with how well each of them had taken on the DARE (Discipline, Action, Respect and Excellence) into themselves. I see each one of them as a leader.”
DAREarts Vancouver Team:
Trisha De Luca Program Coordinator, Shelley MacDonald Lead Teacher, Linda Carson Lead Teacher, Mary Jane Joe Elder, Marc Siller Dance Teacher, Colleen Maybin Music Teacher, Roy Mulder Video and Photography Teacher, Amelia Wilson Program Assistant, Marlo Mason High School Mentor, Akaiya Stewart High School Mentor, Vancouver Opera’s Young Artists Program Singers
Thank you Northbridge Insurance, ArtStarts, TELUS Vancouver Community Fund, HUB International, The McLean Foundation, Dandurand Wines, Cavalier Jewellers and Sandman Suites.
Photos on this post are by Roy Mulder.