Anthony's Story - Illstyle & Peace Troupe

                  Anthony's Story

Quiet, but friendly, Anthony was more interested in sports than in school. “He just kind of blended in with the other kids,” says Melanie Bodner, Anthony’s sixth-grade dance teacher at his school in Manahawkin, NJ. “He didn’t have a focus, or something that made him excited to be in school.”

But that year, when Young Audiences’ Illstyle & Peace dance troupe came to his school through an Artists-in-Education grant, Anthony found his passion. During the twenty day residency, the Illstyle dancers worked with Anthony’s class on a hip-hop-infused, anti-bullying performance piece that emphasized self-esteem and acceptance. Out of sixty classmates, Anthony was cast in the lead role, which involved dancing, singing and acting. The change in him was immediate; where once he had blended in, now he began to shine. “It just brought him to life,” Melanie said. Soon Anthony was arriving early to class and showing other teachers his new dance moves, always with a big grin. He also became a leader to his classmates, encouraging them to try new things too.”

“I just felt more confident about everything” stated Anthony about his performance. No one was more surprised by Anthony’s transformation than his mom, Meredith. After watching him perform in front of 800 students, she was so overwhelmed that she “cried the whole time, I could not believe that was my son on stage. All he talks about now is his future and the colleges he wants to go to,” she added.

Anthony was asked to speak about his experiences with Young Audiences and his dance residency at his school’s board meeting. The meeting was attended by the school’s superintendent, elected board members, parents and the community. The once- quiet boy proudly demonstrated and explained some dance techniques. After his demonstration, he closed by saying that his involvement with dance, “changed [his] life forever.”

-Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania


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