Categories: Latest News.

Contextualizing Ballet with Configuration Dance

In the spring of 2011, students at Holland Elementary learned that you don’t have to be a dancer to learn to dance.  In fact, they learned far more than you may have thought could come from ballet alone.  As part of a Young Audiences residency led by Configuration Dance, Holland students studied mathematical expression, cultural history, and character education in addition to ballet dance postures, steps and terms.

Contextualizing Ballet from Young Audiences on Vimeo.

Bringing ballet into the classroom provides benefits that stretch beyond the stage.  As teaching artist Kolleen Fischer said, the residency gave students a “sense of not just watching a performance but really seeing what goes into being a dancer on an everyday basis and things that they have to practice”. 

Participating teachers were able to incorporate some of the dance movements in their morning classroom routine to help students relax and focus before learning. Several instructors noted that boys and girls alike found value and enjoyment during their daily dance instruction. “You have to work hard,” said one third grader, “but you get to the point that if you work hard enough you will succeed.”

Configuration Dance


Categories: Latest News.

CEM’s Star Kids become SuperDancers with LehrerDance












Young Audiences was able to partner with LehrerDance and provide a long term residency at Concerned Ecumenical Ministries’ Star Kids after school program in the Spring of 2011 with support from the Families of FANA Foundation.  LehrerDance is an energetic and interactive professional dance troupe, but don’t take our word for it. Watch our video, below, to see highlights from the after school program and to hear about this residency’s success from the young people themselves.

LehrerDance at Concerned Exumenical Ministries from Young Audiences on Vimeo.

The LehrerDance residency took place at one of the 21st Century Learning Centers led by CEM. The demographic of CEM’s program is incredibly diverse:  students come from many different countries, and English Language Learning students comprise over 75% of students in the after school program. The cultural diversity of the students and staff requires tolerance and acceptance of differences.  LehrerDance dancers were careful to create a safe space for dancing, where students of all religions and backgrounds could dance safely and appropriately.

The company members of LehrerDance are young, strong professional dancers. With LehrerDance, dance is demystified.  Anyone can dance. Everyday language describes movements, and all students learn they can excel in creative movement.  In this residency, students were involved as both performers and audience members, and this dual role helped them gain confidence in their own performance while simultaneously staying attuned to the accomplishments of others. As one young woman confided that usually “when you do something that you like to do, you never get to tell anybody.” LehrerDance gave her the opportunity to perform skills that she rarely could: instead of telling people about her skills, “you get to show it while you’re dancing.”

The LehrerDance residency spanned 12 weeks, and the students worked with the dancers to create and perform their own original dances.  Researching and choreographing for a dance like this incorporates qualities and skills students need to grow more confident and learn to work together. These skills include communication, critical thinking, problem solving, media literacy, and being collaborative, flexible, and resilient. As one excited dancer said, “It made me feel like I want to dance, and it made me so excited.” Young Audiences is also excited—about our work with LehrerDance, CEM and the Star Kids students!


Categories: Latest News.

Keep it Moving!

Since 2009, with generous support from General Mills Foundation and Children’s Foundation of Erie County, Young Audiences WNY has offered Keep It Moving!, a 35 session after school dance and fitness program each year. Students have the opportunity to work with lead artist Cindy Hanna in contemporary dance, as well Kip Ralabate in ballroom, Sarah Haykel… Read more »

Categories: Latest News.

Outside-of-School Programming

“I really didn’t want to be here. I had no intention of coming, but the first day, everything flipped and I started to like it because it gave me a chance to be creative. I was always sectioned off because I was real anti-social and I wasn’t good at interacting with other people, but within… Read more »

Categories: Latest News.

Young Audiences Keeps the ‘Rhythm’ Going at Heritage Centers

Young Audiences is excited to once again be planning and expanding our relationship with the Heritage Centers After School Program, which engages youth with moderate to severe development disabilities in learning through the arts. We hope that you will watch the video linked below for some highlights from our 2010-2011 programming, which showcases our outstanding teaching artists Reynold Scott, Tom Holt, John Lombardo, and Jen Russo.

A Rhythm Runs Through It from Young Audiences on Vimeo.

This residency was targeted for students who face physical, mental, cognitive, and/or behavioral challenges.  Throughout the residency, students were introduced to a variety of art forms, so that each could find a form that they respond well to and enjoy. These creative experiences were and continue to be an important emotional and physical outlet for the students. They encourage kinesthetic learning and also give learners—who may not normally be exposed to these art forms—an appreciation of and basic vocabulary in the arts.

In a recent program review, both the staff of Heritage Centers and Young Audiences teaching artists praised the residency’s success, citing that students have increased their communication skills, developed a stronger sense of community amongst their peers, and shown a noticeable decrease in behavioral problems.  This amazing partnership continues to be a resounding success.

About the program:

In the “Whole Note Band,” Reynold Scott was able to teach and motivate students to play all kinds of instruments, from drums to trumpets. His dynamic teaching style, which involves energetic movement and constant engagement, helped students showcase their skills, work together, and feel proud of their accomplishments.

Visual artist Tom Holt helped students create a collective mural that represented their singular and group identity. Students drew pictures of themselves, but they also drew a collective background, representing the colorful and diverse world around them by swirling, bright colors and pictures from their shared, everyday lives.  In addition, John Lombardo brought music into their lives, helping students ‘find their voice’ by teaching them to sing songs from many genres: everything from hip hop to children’s folk songs.  Students sang, clapped, danced, and developed rhythm and coordination.

To cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance and cultural diversity, Jen Russo gave students the opportunity to make Daruma Dolls, traditional Japanese dolls that are a symbol of perserverance and good luck. Students conversed together about what their wishes were and what they hoped their future would look like.  Students started imagining and developing goals for their future success.

For more information on how to integrate arts education into your classroom, after school program, or community facility, contact Young Audiences WNY at 716.881.0917.

Categories: Latest News.

Young Audiences Honors Lorna C. Hill and Helga MacKinnon

NdiasYoung Audiences of Western New York, the region’s leading arts education organization, has announced that it will honor the achievements of local arts educators Lorna C. Hill and Helga MacKinnon at its 2011 benefit event, Young Audiences Goes To Town. The benefit, which is open to the public, will be hosted on October 12 at Town Ballroom in Buffalo, and features a headline performance by popular world beat ensemble N’Dias (The Mix)*.

Young Audiences WNY’s annual benefit brings community leaders together to celebrate the important work of engaging young people through the arts. This year’s program boasts live musical performances, amazing appetizers by Torches, auctions, raffles, and an awards ceremony recognizing the outstanding achievements of the 2011 honorees. Tickets to the awards ceremony and reception are available for $50.

Each year, honorees are nominated by the public and selected by the Young Audiences benefit committee. The committee selected this year’s nominees for their outstanding contributions to the arts, education, and their communities.

Lorna C. Hill – Hill is an accomplished director, actor, teacher, storyteller, poet, and playwright. She is the founder of Ujima Theatre Company, Inc. and has served as the organization’s Artistic Director for 32 years. Ujima Company is a multi-cultural membership organization dedicated to providing a vehicle for African American performers, theatre crafts people and administrators. Additionally, Hill has been the Founder and Director of the Youth Theatre Workshop at St. Augustine’s Community Center; a performing artist for Western New York Institute for the Arts and Rochester Institute for the Arts; a writing artist in the schools for Just Buffalo; and a guest artist in the schools with Project Unique.

Helga MacKinnon – MacKinnon is an accomplished educator and artist. She built Young Audiences WNY to be a sustainable, outstanding institution as the organization’s former Executive Director, a position that she held for 12 years. She continues to serve as a volunteer docent at Albright-Knox Art Gallery. She has held positions on numerous boards and committees of arts in education organizations, including the Board of the New York State Alliance for Arts Education (NYSAAE), the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) Field Council, the Young Audiences, Inc., Program Committee, ArtSPAES, Special Population and Alternative Educational Settings, Steering Committee, and the Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County Regrant Committee.

Proceeds from this event support Young Audiences programming, bringing arts programs to children throughout the eight counties of WNY. Tickets and additional information are available online at or by contacting the Young Audiences office at 716.881.0917.

*Picture above: YA teaching artists Robin Monique and Alassan Sarr will perform at the benefit event with their world beat ensemble N’Dias (The Mix).


Categories: Latest News.

Arts for Life

Young Audiences is incredibly fortunate to work with Community Action Organization’s N.U.R.T.U.R.E. after school programs for elementary school students.  This past year, C.A.O. students have had the opportunity to work with Young Audiences artists in poetry, visual art, dance and music programming. The below video features highlights from the after school program, showcasing work with teaching artists Rodney Appleby, Tom Holt, Annette Daniels-Taylor, Sarah Haykel, and African Dance Group Le Ballet Touba.

Arts for Life – Nurture from Young Audiences on Vimeo.

In each of these programs, children learned skills for building successful lives with interactive and outstanding artists. C.A.O. and Young Audiences worked together to create focused goals of self-sufficiency, self-determination, and collaboration.  All programming was designed around the Young Audiences Inc. Signature Core Services model, in which students experience an art form, gain an understanding of it, create in that art form, and connect that area of learning to other areas of study or life skills. Supplementary funding was provided by the MetLife Learning for Life program.

Rodney Appleby’s Music is Life workshops helped students understand the importance of rhythm, not only musically but experientially, as they worked to create complex and creative song together. 

Tom Holt helped students explore their identities in his Creative Journaling workshops. Students were asked to tell the story of themselves through drawing and writing about their past, present, and future, including the details of their everyday lives. As one young girl proudly said: “When I grow up, when I look at all the journals that I did, I can say to myself, ‘That is beautiful.’”

By participating in Annette Daniels-Taylor’s Stories through the Microphone, students were literally ‘given a voice,’ as they wrote stories about their lives and then told those stories to each other. Students gained confidence in their abilities to speak publicly and put together complicated and inspiring thoughts. One young writer learned how to create metaphors by comparing the feeling of receiving love to the rush of a falling waterfall. Daniels Taylor emphasized the importance of “just letting kids express themselves” in the creative process.

Students got up and moving with Sarah Haykel’s Dance residency and African Dance Le Ballet Touba. Haykel emphasized the collectivity of dance to her students. “I really brought in the concept that we are all together in this. I need you, you need me. It’s about us doing this together.”  Students working with African Dance Le Ballet Touba were also asked to work together even as they recognized the unique excitement of traditional African dance and learned, through movement, about personifying different animals.

This was a fantastic partnership for Young Audiences, C.A.O. and participating students and teachers.


Categories: Latest News.

Movement in the Classroom: Dance brings experiential learning to a new level

PUSHYou are probably hearing more and more about the relationship between movement and learning or experience and learning.  The process of physically stimulating the brain with movement to promote learning has been a popular discussion  lately but is not a new concept.  In fact, John Dewey knew of its significance back in the first half of the 20th century.   The majority of students, as much as 80%, learn best when they can link their learning to experience.  Even Einstein himself said that “learning is experience, everything else is just information.” 

The follow excerpt was taken from Schools Integrate Dance Into Core Academics, written by Erik W. Robeien for Education Week:

“Small groups of pupils in this class at Fort Garrison Elementary School brainstormed to come up with dance movements to convey elements of photosynthesis, including water, sunlight, carbon dioxide, and chlorophyll. They leaned, they reached, they flowed, sometimes with surprising grace.

Arts education proponents suggest that studying the arts provides a variety of academic and social benefits to young people and can enhance students’ ability to learn other subjects, including the development of skills in reading, language development, and math. It’s seen as a powerful way to promote creativity and critical thinking, among other skills.” 
Click here to read the full article.

Knowing how to integrate “experience” into the lesson is a skill that can be shared and strengthened through teaching artists.  Working with a group like Young Audiences of Western New York can assure the teacher that integrative experience takes place and allows for greater understanding of the objective of a lesson, stronger long term memory of what was learned, experience of understanding the greater process, and an appreciation of their world and the global world.  Further, it will get the students excited about learning and assist in building a world of life-long learners.

Pictured above: PUSH Physical Theatre uses dance to reinforce core curriculum topics and ties movement to specific learning objectives (like physical science or the natural world) in the classroom.

Categories: Latest News.

Nominate a community leader to be honored at our annual gala

YMonicaoung Audiences WNY’s annual benefit event brings community leaders together to celebrate the important work of engaging and educating young people through the arts. Each year, the benefit committee recognizes individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the arts, education, and their communities. Honorees are nominated by the public, selected by the benefit committee, and recognized at our annual awards reception.

This year, we will acknowledge the work of two outstanding leaders/organizations in the fields of arts and education on October 13 at Young Audiences Goes to Town, a musical celebration in two acts to benefit arts education. The event will be hosted at Town Ballroom and features the awards ceremony as well as live entertainment, plentiful appetizers, raffles, and a headline performance N’Dias.

We invite and encourage you to nominate a community leader to be honored during our Act I awards reception. Previous receipients of this award include Monica Angle, the Buffalo Teacher’s Center, William Y. Cooper, Joan Gruen, Cindy Hanna, Holland & Holley Elementary Schools, Miriam Minkoff, Kyoko Roszmann and Gretchen Murray Sepik.

Nominations are due to Young Audiences WNY by August 1 at 5 p.m. Click here to download a nomination form.

Pictured above: 2010 honoree Monica Angle participates at the Patricia Cotsen Arts Abilities Conference.


Categories: Latest News.

Staff Attends Arts in Education Leaderhip Institute

LI1Young Audiences WNY Executive Director Cynnie Gaasch and Program Director Theresa Woehrel joined attendees from across the country last week for the Young Audiences Arts in Education Leadership Institute. Created with the support of the American Express Foundation, the symposium was developed by Young Audiences, Inc. to promote exceptional leadership in the field of arts education. The conference was designed to develop the professional growth of individual participants, impact institutional development, and have a ripple effect on the arts in education field.  Gaasch and Woehrel were selected from affiliates across the country to participate with 23 other individuals in the Young Audiences network.

“Having the opportunity to connect with arts education professionals from across the country is an invaluable experience,” said Gaasch. “We’ve brought back many exciting ideas that we are eager to implement in collaboration with our region’s educators and artists.”
The Institute’s participants represented 14 of a total 30 Young Audiences affiliates. Those attending the Institute are emerging leaders from various departmental backgrounds and with a broad range of experience. The participants are united by the mission to draw on the strength of the network in order to serve their unique community needs and were chosen to attend the Institute because of their commitment to increasing the role of the arts in children’s lives. Their feedback will prove crucial to the next phase of development and in securing the Institute’s longevity and social impact.
Upon the success of this pilot project, Young Audiences will develop a comprehensive Leadership Institute to build the capacity of leaders in the arts in education field as well as address the challenges facing all organizations that champion the rights of children, young adults and communities.

Young Audiences WNY currently provides professional development services for educators and artists in Buffalo and throughout Western New York. The organization is hosting the Fifth Annual Patricia Cotsen Arts Abilities Conference on August 10-12, providing teachers will innovative and applicable techniques for creating an engaging learning environment through the arts. Click here for additional information and registration details or by call 716.881.0917.

Pictured above: Young Audiences WNY Executive Director Cynnie Gaasch participates in workshop at the 2011 Arts in Education Leadereship Institute.