Home»Culture»Art Watch»Josephine County Cultural Coalition grant profile: RiverStars Performing Arts

Josephine County Cultural Coalition grant profile: RiverStars Performing Arts

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The Josephine County Cultural Coalition hands out supportive grants to organizations around the, well, county, to help, well, support the wonderful programming that various organizations are currently hosting. We were curious about how those funds actually move from donation to positive impact—and contacted several recent recipients from JCCC grants, including Lindsey B. Jones, Executive Director for the Illinois Valley Community Development Organization. This grant specifically supports RiverStars Performing Arts. (Photo credit: Trina Morago)

RVM: How does dance liberate you in terms of storytelling?  As opposed to, say, a traditional stage production? 

LBJ: When folks can’t rely on their preconceived notions of what words mean, they have more freedom to feel with their hearts, and exercise emotional intelligence.  When we dance, we are able to convey more completely complex emotions and feelings without any fear of triggering someone with overused words.  Also, we convey ourselves with more urgency when we use our entire physical tool, it’s like putting your body where your mouth is. Dance is visually stimulating as well, and encourages physical health which is constantly in decline from sedentary, digital lifestyles.  Folks actually love to breathe hard, stretch their bodies, and keep a beat, it brings joy and releases serotonin. As RiverStars offers the only dance opportunities in the Illinois Valley, our work remains vital to a comprehensive physical, spiritual, and emotional education. Our students express themselves with more passion, concentrate more deeply, focus when required, take risks, and gain esteem in themselves.

RVM:  Can you briefly describe the choreography and storytelling process? How are decisions about what to tell, and how made? 

LBJ: Gina Angelique, RiverStar’s Director and teacher, picks a yearly theme based on student voice. Through journal writing and improvisation, students articulate what is most relevant to their lives. Once a theme is established, students then have the opportunity to create with it.  For example, in celebrating Illinois Valley culture, students will be creating “Emoshies”…our version of ‘Emojis’ this year. These faces will feature student’s external expressions, followed by dances that convey the emotion underneath. In this way, we investigates what makes us unique, and at the same time hold up our physical lifestyle, as opposed to the more virtual lifestyles celebrated elsewhere. Once initial drafts are made, students watch each other in groups and share comments that contribute to the overall shape of a piece and its impact.

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