Youth Find Their Voices, Stretch Boundaries in Dimensions Dance Theater’s Rites of Passage Recital


Photo by Ed Miller

“It takes a village to raise a child,” says the African proverb that has almost become a cliché. But the young people participating in the Rites of Passage program run by Dimensions Dance Theater have put a twist on it in their showcase performances called “The Village Matters.”

“We chose that title because a lot of young people don’t feel like they are being heard,” said Dimensions Dance Theater Director Deborah Vaughan, who co-founded the Oakland company 45 years ago and began the Rites of Passage component in 1993. “The young people feel like they are not heard, and when they are seen, it’s in a negative light.”

Dancers from LIKHA School of Philippine Dance, On Demand, BAY-Peace, Oakland Technical High School, Oakland High School, Bret Harte Middle School and Kipp Bridge Academy will get “a field and a voice … to what they are thinking about and what they would like to express. And they like to express themselves in dance,” said Vaughn.

In dance “they are saying that they matter.”

Aged eight to 18, the Rites of Passage participants are mostly Black, Latino and Asian. They will be joined by members of Dimensions’ elite youth company, “Dimensions Extensions,” as well as its flagship adult dance company.

The program will also feature guest artists “Harpist from the Hood” Destiny Muhammad, and Batalá of San Francisco.

The Bay Area-based septet The Destiny Muhammad Project will offer live accompaniment to three of her works, which the students chose “so they could stretch their boundaries. They wanted to see if they could do hop-hop’ to a work that old,” said Muhammad of compositions from early in her 25-year-long career.

“We Are the Ones,” references the young people’s role as the keepers of the future. The opportunity is a welcome one for Muhammad, who first played with Dimensions in 1997 soon after she arrived in the Bay Area.

Batalá, a 40-member group of drummers in San Francisco specializing in samba reggae, will perform their Afro-Brazilian genre of music that was developed in Bahia, Brazil, inland accompany the performers.

On Sunday, May 7th, “The Village Matters” will be held at the Phillip Reeder Auditorium at Castlemont High School,  8601 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. Tickets are $10 – $20 at  Eventbrite. For group discounts, as well as a limited number of complimentary tickets for students and teachers within the Oakland Unified School District, contact Dimensions Dance Theater at (510) 465-3363

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