February 26, 2023—I recently had the opportunity to read an article about the New York-based Spark Movement Collective. The multicultural collective is celebrating its 13th year of making dance accessible for children and adults, as well as inclusive by offering American Sign Language translation and bilingual English/Spanish productions.
Founded in 2009 by Chelsea Koenig, the Spark Movement Collective is a collaboration of dancers, musicians and visual artists who utilize dance to share character-driven stories. Ms. Koenig also co-created BOLD-Arts—Brave, Open-minded Learning through Dance—to teach dance in the public schools and during summer camps throughout the tri-state area.
The current Artistic Director is Michelle Thompson Ulerich, who joined the company in 2020, just as the pandemic hit. Ms. Thompson Ulerich successfully expanded the boundaries of accessibility to the collective’s work by creating outdoor and virtual performances.
One of the biggest challenges noted by Ms. Thompson Ulerich is that many people are intimidated by dance performances, thinking the work is too complex to understand. She seeks to make sure that Spark Movement Collective performances “speak” to the audience in personal ways through the exploration of contemporary themes, well-known stories, and by providing program notes.
Ms. Thompson Ulerich also is concerned about the performers and provides time for acknowledging personal and physical issues that dancers face, as well as any mental health challenges.
I appreciate the noted attention to both access and inclusion, and find it to be the hallmark of arts organizations successfully engaged in their communities.