COVID-19 wasn’t able to take all the fun out of spring break.
From March 23 to 25 Nanaimo’s Crimson Coast Dance Society is holding its annual Body Talk youth dance camp, but in adhering to pandemic precautions, the workshop is taking place in the virtual realm.
“I don’t know if Crimson Coast has ever cancelled anything,” artistic director Holly Bright said.
This year’s facilitators, hip hop artist, music producer and audio engineer Ecko Aleck, rapper Sirreal and dancer A.J. (MegaMan) Kambere, are presenting their sessions live over an online video conference call platform.
“I’m astonished and so happy to be here now doing this and seeing that it’s working…” Bright said during Day 1 of Body Talk. “It’s pretty miraculous and fun.”
The artists also prerecorded their lessons in case of technical difficulties, and those videos are publicly available on Crimson Coast’s Facebook page. Aleck and Sirreal said the performing arts can change a child’s life.
Aleck said she was considered an at-risk youth and that music and cultural teachings saved her and “brought me back to life.”
“I have dedicated my career to helping young people find those connections within creativity and within culture that can help get them through some really hard times, but also spark the light back into them,” she said.
Sirreal said he was “doing a lot of really bad stuff” when he was young and his love for music and writing put him on the right track.
“If I would have had someone like me come in and say, ‘Listen, I know you’ve been through stuff, but let’s make art out of that,’ and if I would have had an outlet sooner, maybe I wouldn’t have been stuck in that position as long as I was,” he said.
Sirreal has been a part of Crimson Coast’s spring break workshops in the past. He said watching the youths gradually come out of their shells over the course of the week was his favourite part of the experience.
“The first day we were with the youths they were so shy…” he said. “And then by Day 5 I had every single one of them onstage performing their own rap song.”
In lieu of holding an end-of-week Body Talk recital, the plan is for the participants and artists to reconvene in the summer and perform what they’ve prepared at Crimson Coast’s Infringing Dance Festival.
Bright said adapting the program as an online workshop has been a “huge” investment of time and money but said “there’s no price tag on supporting success for teenagers.”
“We’re pretty passionate about what this project is and what it does for teens and particularly those who have faced struggles. We don’t want this to be one of them,” she said. “And we have the capacity. It’s just a question of us choosing to make that investment.”