Saint Mary's School News

Black Box Dance Theatre offers impactful collaboration in Seminar Program

Saint Mary’s School seminar program integrates what we know girls need, with what we know of the changing world girls will be facing, to provide relevant, forward-looking, real-world opportunities to prepare girls for college and life. In collaboration with Saint Mary’s Seminar faculty, Black Box Dance Theatre is working with our students to provide innovative programming to explore topics relevant to the areas of focus as well as current events for each grade level.

In the Seminar Program this week, Saint Mary’s 11th graders worked in the studio with artists in residence from Black Box Dance Theatre, including SMS Director of Dance Michelle Pearson, on Inclusive Conversations, Art as a Practice of Equity, including the concepts of story and lens, exploring the essence of conversation, building awareness and experience with the power of personal story and the deep listening required to hold multiple truths.

Through dance, writing, storytelling, listening, collaborating, and creating, the work in these impactful Seminar sessions in the Mary Smedes Poyner York Dance Studio poses several core questions. Who tells the story? Whose story is it? What is a patriot? How do these questions intersect in the age of Covid-19 and the continued struggle for justice and equality for all?

The students learned about the dance theatre’s Patriot Project, a partnership with the N.C. Arts Council and USO of North Carolina, a multi-media dance, theater, and story-telling project that is a living memorial of emotional, virtuosic dancing examining the service and sacrifice of U.S. veterans, active duty military, and their families.

Director of Dance Michelle Pearson describes it best. “What leadership skills are culled and required for expanding one’s circle of engagement? How is inclusive and collaborative art making a practice of equity and human relations work? Eleventh grade students will build awareness and experience with the power of personal story and deep listening required to hold multiple truths. Who tells the story? Whose story is it? How do these questions intersect in the age of Covid-19 and the continued struggle for justice and equality for all. Students will engage with multiple lenses as part of the Patriot Project that invites military persons to bring their stories forward and move toward a deeper understanding of service and sacrifice.”

“During our seminar class with Black Box Dance Company, I learned dance is not strictly reserved for people that dance competitively or frequently,” says Coco Jones ’22. “Dance can be an outlet for anyone to express how they are feeling. Something I took away from this class was the ability to find positive and creative ways to relieve stress and relax.”

Black Box is working with 9th graders on Identity, Community, and Systems of Support and 10th graders on Core Values, Discernment and Dilemma, Whole Body Decision Making, using the power of dance to help students explore these topics in powerful ways, inspired by the following quotes to be considered.

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” Socrates

"We do not always dance because we are happy, but we dance and cannot help but become happy." anonymous

"It is your birth right to dance"  Liz Lerman

Black Box Dance Theatre is a premiere modern dance company known for their groundbreaking collaborations in the making of deeply human and physically compelling dance. They are recognized as leaders in the field for their use of dance as healing art, community building, cultural democracy, leadership development, and transformative art making. The Artistic Director of this celebrated troupe is our very own, Director of Dance, Michelle Pearson. Saint Mary’s School proudly welcomes the return of Black Box Dance Theatre as artists in residence on our campus as they share their expertise of dance in innovative and meaningful ways.

By Mary Virginia Swain '77C

Director of Public Relations and Publications