My work with the Young People's Chorus of NYC
ME & THE YPC
Words like plié, relevé, passé, and rond de jambe are common in a dance class, but for the past several weeks leading up to Monday's Carnegie Hall Gala, all 360 members of YPC's core after-school program have been hearing those words as part of intensive dance rehearsals under YPC's extraordinarily inventive choreographer Jacquie Bird.
Since Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez founded the chorus 25 years ago, he has always incorporated movement in the chorus's performances. He believes that dancing, as a form of non-verbal communication, conveys emotion and adds an exciting layer to the presentation of the music.
The visual display lures audiences in even more and ensures they feel engaged. After a few years, Francisco began adding actual choreography to performances, and since Jacquie Bird began working with the YPC children seven years ago, her brilliance has brought their performances to a new level. The gala on Monday will feature the choristers dancing through the program highlighted by two music-dance compilations. The first is an Americana folk set ranging from a Shaker melody to bluegrass. The second is a high-energy jazz/pop set, featuring such musical favorites from the 40's, 50's, and 60's.
The children, who initially come to YPC just to sing, are drawn to the dancing part of the program. The physical movement in the choreography is demanding - involving jumping, turning, and lifting at fast and slow speeds - and the many hours the children spend mastering the moves build muscle strength and stamina. As a result, they emerge healthier, stronger, and more energized in their daily lives.
Jacquie, who has an instinctive ability to explain what she is looking for to children as young as seven, says, "This is real dance, and I am particularly proud of the caliber of sophistication and technique the choristers are able to build on year after year. The best part is to watch the choristers light up when they walk on stage. It is obvious that they are loving it, and it's magic."
Jacquie Bird, a triple-threat performer on Broadway, film, and television and a master-teacher/choreographer, a singer, and writer. Among the many YPC performances she choreographs are YPC's annual galas and its recent tours of the Dominican Republic, Sweden, China, and the Polyfollia choral showcase in France, where YPC was the only chorus to sell out every performance. Jacquie has taught and choreographed aspiring young artists in Japan, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Hong Kong, the Canada, Bermuda, and Colombia and in the U.S. has taught at Princeton University and Hofstra University as a guest lecturer for the last 5 years; on staff at Lehman College, the M.F.A. Theater Program at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, Steps on Broadway, Ballet Arts and Broadway Dance Center, where she was a longtime assistant to Frank Hatchett and an interim-sub for Sue Samuels. Jacquie is also sought after as a visiting assistant professor of dance, a guest teacher/choreographer, and as a guest lecturer.