What is art? It may be beautiful or enigmatic. It may be exciting, touching, or silly. But, ok, what exactly is art? After watching the performance of THE DELPHI PROJECT, the answer becomes clear. Art is a way to express the truth. The truth of our emotions. The truth of our lives. The truth of ourselves.
Delphi Project Foundation and Pennsylvania Ballet have been engaging in the community of Philadelphia by providing 10,000 school children in Philadelphia area annually with a variety of in-school, after-school, and theater-based opportunities, free of charge since 1996. Their mission is to introduce children to the art of ballet and dance—an art that lets children fully use their body, to create harmonies with others around them, and to express themselves.
This year, five schools in Philadelphia—Chester A. Arthur, Conwell Middle Magnet School, Folk Arts Charter School, Juniata Park Academy, and Pan American Charter Academy—participated in the program. The participating students had attended both in and out of school programs, such as after-school dance classes, literary enrichment, student performances. and Pennsylvania Ballet dress rehearsals and performances. As the finale of the program, they gained a special experience—to be on the stage of the Prince Theater and perform as artists.
Six instructors whose specialities range from ballet, latin dance, and African dance guided the students through the path to that special day. After introductory speeches by the director of PA Ballet Community Engagement, Sarah Cooper, and by the school principals, a Latin dance by students of the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet brought a festive and cheerful mood to the theater. Then ten dance pieces were presented by the participating students, with one modern ballet piece by PA Ballet II dancers in between.
What amazing artists the children were! To such varieties of music as slow moody songs, pop songs, songs with the latin rhythm, and African drums played live on the stage, they danced classical and modern ballet, latin dance, pop dance, and african dance. Their faces first showed nervousness out of their serious devotion to the moment, then big smiles spread to all of the kids on the stage and to the audiences. Just memorizing all the movements of each dance piece must have required tremendous concentration and commitment. Not only did they manage to do so throughout the entire performance, they naturally expressed their joy and showed their attentions and cares to each other by respecting the space around them and reaching out to each other to hold hands.
Then there were ten poets. Who had their voices. They shook and woke us up, some with the innocent and instinctive wonders of their children’s lives, and some who screamed out the brutal pains that they carry. The program closed with a grand finale with all of the students on the stage dancing to an exhilarating pop song.
Especially under the recent movement towards less government funds for education and art, programs like Delphi Project are vital for the growth and future of children and their communities. Through the program, the children learned that they can express their feeling in variety of ways as artists, that their voices will be received by those who are there for them, and that they are loved and cared for by the community. The standing ovation will be their lifetime memory and give confidence and courage as they move forward in their lives.
[The Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street] March 29, 2017; paballet.org/delphi-project