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"How Far I'll Go"

August 11, 2017

Over the past five weeks I have worked with an awesome group of 10- and 11-year-olds at PS 149 with the Educational Alchemy Passport program. These students have explored arts and culture all over the boroughs, going to various museums, practicing meditation techniques in yoga classes, and even taking a boat tour around the city. I, however, got to teach them dance at Ripley Grier studios in Manhattan. 


During my sacred sessions with them, I got to teach them contemporary jazz fundamentals - plies, tendus, isolations, release work, traveling steps, killer ab challenges - to lay the groundwork for a choreographed piece. In our first class, we grooved to a bunch of songs, from Hall and Oates' "You Make My Dreams" to the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feelin'". They contentedly danced along, but the moment Alessia Cara's "How Far I'll Go" from Moana started playing, the energy shifted: everyone burst out in song. Thirty minutes later, when one of the students asked that I play it again at the end of class, I knew that I would choreograph their dance to that the song.


Week after week, we would warmup and dive into the "How Far I'll Go" choreography. They would sing as they learned the steps to Lin-Manuel Miranda's beautiful lyrics (check 'em out below), attaching meaning to every movement. We would run the piece again and again and again, reviewing steps and cementing the sequence into muscle memory.


Today they shared their work with loved ones. Family members, favorite grown-ups, siblings, grandparents, and their incredible administrators packed into a dance studio to witness this incredible community of students share anecdotes of their five-week journey; collage work, yoga poses, devised theater work, and...our bit of Moana-inspired grooving.


They rocked it!!! 


One of my favorite things about teaching artistry is that I get to facilitate opportunities for practice and in return I have the opportunity to witness to their repeated efforts and ultimately their triumphs. Today I had the opportunity to witness these students stand in front of their peers, teachers, and loved ones with pride. Pride is so often a tricky thing: too much and it reeks of arrogance, but too little and it demonstrates a lack of confidence. But there they stood with a fabulous Goldilocks-worthy-just-right kind of pride. The kind of pride that comes from the dual surprise and satisfaction born of the discovery that you possess the capacity to create something great within a collective, something you previously had not imagined possible. Moments like these are humbling for me, making me realize that I, too, am forever a student, forever learning how far we'll go.


Enjoy Lin-Manuel's Moana magic below!




I've been staring at the edge of the water
Long as I can remember, never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try

Every turn I take, every trail I track
Every path I make, every road leads back
To the place I know, where I cannot go
Where I long to be

See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I'll know, if I go there's just no telling how far I'll go


I know everybody on this island seems so happy on this island
Everything is by design
I know everybody on this island has a role on this island
So maybe I can roll with mine

I can lead with pride, I can make us strong
I'll be satisfied if I play along
But the voice inside sings a different song
What is wrong with me?

See the light as it shines on the sea? It's blinding
But no one knows, how deep it goes
And it seems like it's calling out to me, so come find me
And let me know, what's beyond that line, will I cross that line?

See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I'll know, how far I'll go

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Photo Credit: David Noles
© 2018 by Victoria Pollack