Dancing Through Life: Ashanti C
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Dancing her way across the country, Ashanti C. has performed on a myriad of stages in front of countless audiences. However, after ending up in Philadelphia for the past four years, she has seemed to have found a personal love for dancing on the basketball court.
Ashanti, originally from Anchorage, Alaska, began dancing at the age of seven and was hooked from the very first second she slipped on her ballet shoes.
“What I like most about dance is the fact that I can be someone I’m not in my everyday life; kind of like an alter-ego,” she said, “dancing and performing successfully demands that you be expressive, exaggerated, and outgoing, which is definitely opposite from who I am regularly.”
Ashanti began her career at Temple University in 2008 as a member of the Diamond Gem Dance Team. The Diamond Gems are best known to perform at most sporting events for the university including both football and basketball games.
After performing with the Diamond Gems for two years, Ashanti decided to test her luck by taking her dance career to the next level. The 76ers Dance Team it was! And although Temple’s dance team was sad to lose one of their best dancers, they were proud to be represented on the professional level.
The audition process was strenuous and extremely nerve-wrecking for Ashanti, but exciting nonetheless. She spent countless hours in the gym ahead of time building up stamina and getting her body both physically and mentally prepared for the pressure it would be placed under.
The audition process was divided into two sections. The initial tryout, before the first round of cuts, consisted of technique and the learning and performing of two different dance routines.
Ashanti knew that her technique and jazz were her strong points, but she was worried about performing the hip-hop dance. Thankfully, her tryout number was called at the end of the first round and she was moving on to finals where she would perform in front of friends, spectators, and a wide panel of judges at Chickie’s and Pete’s about a month later.
“I knew that being a part of the 76ers dance team was something I wanted to do by the feeling I got from just performing at the auditions,” Ashanti said, “all of the girls, both those auditioning for the first time as well as the veteran dancers, were so personable and enthusiastic. But most importantly, they all enjoyed being there and being a part of the organization.”
Ashanti knew that she would fit in with the Sixers girls really well, yet there was still doubt in her mind. Dancing at Chickie’s and Pete’s was such an amazing experience for her and she would have been happy to have just had that memory even if she did not actually make the team.
Two days later, however, she went online and saw her name listed as a 2010-2011 dancer for the 76ers professional basketball team. She had so many emotions swimming about, excitement, relief, but mostly the thrill to bring her passion of dance to the professional level.
“I feel as though my experience on the Temple Diamond Gems definitely helped me make the Sixers Dance Team. Before Temple, I had never danced on a team, so I am very thankful for everything I learned while on their team,” she said.
Not only was Ashanti excited to be dancing again, but she was proud of the fact that she was going to be a part of a positive organization in the larger community of Philadelphia.
Gaining a spot as 76ers dancer, Ashanti began to consider her role on the team as a job. “Yes we are dancers, but most importantly we have to consider ourselves as professionals, producing great entertainment, as well as spreading positive images for the sport team.”
Ashanti hopes to make dancing a long term profession. “All I can say is I want to dance for as long as physically possible while also being involved in some of my other interests,” she explained.
Not only is Ashanti talented, gorgeous, and fun, but she also has the brains to back her up. She is currently studying public relations out of the School of Communications and is also aspiring to create her own jewelry line. The sketches of her jewelry line are stunning and she is planning on bringing her idea to fruition in the very near future.
Hip-Hop in Heels
Monday, October 3, 2011
Hip-hop has seemed to soften up its hard side as the female dancers are beginning to change their image in the culture.
The I Am Phresh Dance Studio is the first place in Philadelphia to bring hip-hop dance to a new level, literally by placing it up in heels. On Wednesday, September 21, Shanika Boston taught a class in the style of femme where high heels were a requirement at the studio.
The name “femme” might not ring a bell, but Beyonce spells it all out in her music videos. Femme is basically short for feminine and expresses how sexy, yet powerful a woman can be. Boston believes that it is the essence of being a woman.
This style of dance is not just about being “an object.” Boston said, “Some of the pop culture or rap videos may display females in a negative way, so what would be natural or what comes from way back in history with just moving your body in Africa or even in India they may take it and make it more raunchy than feminine. You can be sexy without taking it to a place where it doesn’t have to go.”
Boston had her class wear heels to express this femininity. Some of the girls were terrified to be dancing two inches higher than usual, but others were proud and understood the importance of it.
“I look up to a lot of femme women like Beyonce and a lot of her dancers,” Whitney, one of the dancers, said, “I just like to look grown and learn how to walk in heels, because it’s embarrassing if you don’t know how.”
Although some of the women snuck into their sneakers halfway through the class, their beauty and womanly power graced the dance floor all night long.
I Am Phresh Dance Studio holds weekly classes teaching various styles of hip-hop dance. For more information check out their website: www.iamphresh.com
Phillies Phan Phever
Speaking words and spreading truth
By touring the nation and spreading her message of truth to thousands of people, Nina “Lyrispect” Ball, a 2005 Temple alumna of the African American studies department, said she hopes to empower America with her spoken word performances. Although she has been an actress and performer since third grade, Ball said she believes attending Temple was what led her to the dream career path she now leads.
After discovering her passion for the arts, Ball studied theater at the Baltimore School for the Arts, a high school where she was classically trained as an actress. Her interests became more guided toward the media-art world and led her to enroll at Temple in hopes of becoming a screenwriter. Ball wanted to create a more balanced work for people of color, and she knew she could create characters that were not segregated or prejudice.
“There is no substitution for human to human contact [and] the exchanging of energy and the exchanging of ideas,” Ball said. “There is just something about watching someone in a moment that cannot be rewound or done over.”
Ball said taking Temple’s Poetry and Performance class helped her understand how she could make a career of her passions and sparked her ambitions of spoken word. She began to take advantage of frequent open-mic nights around Main Campus, which allowed her to gain courage and expand her personal abilities as a performer.
Eventually, this led to her involvement with Spoken Soul 215, a collective group of five spoken-word performers from a variety of backgrounds. All the members had their own style, whether it was writing and reading poetry, singing, performing hip-hop or mentoring the youth in the community. Ball was asked to join Spoken Soul 215 three years ago, after her friend in the group heard her perform at some on-campus open-mic nights.
Together, the members of the diverse group – which now includes Ball – express the importance of free expression through the arts of voice.
“There is just you and the audience, and when you open your mouth, then that is your moment to share what you represent in this world,” Ball said.
Ball said she felt it was especially inspirational to have like-minded people to bounce ideas off, instead of carrying the loneliness of a solitary performing artist. Spoken Soul 215 created a strong support system, with each member offering individual talents to a collective whole.
Despite Ball’s passion for the arts and performing, she said difficulties can arise in speaking from your heart. She challenges ideas of a conforming society and explores how society views the world and each other as individuals.
“Even if you don’t agree with what I am saying, at least I have you thinking about something in a new way,” Ball said. “There is a payoff in knowing that you have hopefully affected someone’s life in a positive way.”
One group Ball recalled making a positive impact on was a group of Native American youth who never experienced life off their reservation. After her performance for the young audience, they presented her with a handmade wool blanket they draped on their guest of honor. Ball said she was truly shocked and felt honored to be thanked in such a momentous way.
Another moment Ball said she would never forget took place in 2006, when she was honored to perform at the Trumpet Awards in Atlanta. They enjoyed her performance so much, she said, that they asked her back the following year, after she performed in front of an audience that included Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.
Though this performer has positively influenced many different groups by her spoken word, she finds her biggest accomplishment in being a mentor to the girls of Black Girls Rock, an organization based in Brooklyn, which was represented on BET this past weekend. This organization focuses on establishing self-esteem in 12- to 17-year-old girls through the arts.
“The real reward is being able to mentor young girls who I get to share [their] art and passion with, and help them find their voice within performing,” Ball said.
After looking back on her college career and comparing it to her current lifestyle as a spoken word performer, Ball advised students to use every bit of information they learn in class to accomplish their dreams. Using what is learned in poetry is the best way to challenge one’s mind, she said.
“There is a dangerous amount of conformity in youth,” Ball said. “The more of us who can speak up with our own individual voices, the better off we will all be and the more enlightened we will all be to avoid the many misconceptions about the world.”
Bluebond guitars strums strings for learning
From teenage angst to music lessons, Bluebond Guitars has held its pick for more than 20 years.
With its walls lined with guitars of all shapes, sizes and brands, Bluebond Guitars gives new meaning to the average guitar store. An old mom-and-pop store at Fourth and Lombard streets, the shop considers its customers to be more like family than sale prospects.
“We help more than sell. Instead of a service, we try to maintain a relationship with the customer,” owner Richard Chodak said. Bluebond Guitars, which has been in existence for more than 20 years, not only sells guitars, but it serves as a repair shop and music school as well.
Chodak said his love for music began when he was a teenager in the 1980s.
“It was typical teenage angst that I was getting out on the electric guitar,” he said.
He said he loved the idea of rebellion and the punk lifestyle and just wanted to take his frustrations of youth out by blasting his electric guitar.
The guitar shop first opened in 1989 by one of Chodak’s close friends, whose last name was Bluebond. Chodak began working at the store for his friend in 1991, but two years later, his friend was killed in a car accident. Chodak found such potential in the store that he began to run Bluebond Guitars himself to further customers’ love for music in his friend’s honor.
Currently, the vintage guitar store sells used and affordable equipment, as well as items that big name stores do not typically carry.
Chodak said the store’s repair shop has proved quite successful as well. More than half the store is covered with unrepaired equipment that customers are waiting on.
“We don’t even advertise,” Chodak said. “Word of mouth pretty much covers it.”
Throughout the years, the Bluebond music school went from teaching a few students to its currently enrolled 180 students. The program places teenage musicians into groups that create original songs together. After three months, the groups perform their music at the Balcony at the Trocadero. It’s not uncommon for the bands to stay together after the program ends.
The instructors at Bluebond offer the bands guidance and encourage the students to fully express themselves through their music. Chodak described the instructors as the student’s creative coaches.
The school also holds open-mic nights for its adult students at local bars, which offer an encouraging environment for the performers.
Chodak and his staff play nearly every instrument necessary for a typically rock band, and most employees have worked at the Bluebond for 10 to 15 years. Chodak said he believes the workplace is enjoyable and hardly feels like work at all, which has made Bluebond Guitars more like a family than simply a place of employment.
“We have created a community here where people can come in and just hang out,” Chodak said. “It doesn’t matter how young or old or rich or poor someone is. Anyone is welcome to come in and jam out on any guitar they please.”
Students examine society’s injustices through conversation and narratives
Students’ personal stories bring the Philly Fringe play “54: All Together Equal” to life.
For a dozen people crowded in a small apartment room, brainstorming seemed to become a communal experience. Although they did not have the most ideal space to rehearse for their upcoming play, “54: All Together Equal,” their ideas and struggles made their play come alive.
In just 20 days, 12 Temple students from Insomnia Theater company created their Philly Fringe show about inequality in the world based on their experiences, stories and prejudices.
“We focus on every group who has been discriminated against while trying to achieve that all-too-familiar American Dream,” said director Kevin Stackhouse, a junior theater major.
Stackhouse, the mastermind behind the play, originally planned for the piece to be a rock musical.
“[The actors’] real-life stories had much more importance and soul to them,” he said, “and they are all based on fact.”
Insomnia Theater assembled with the hope of sharing its talent and messages with Philadelphia. This was all, in part, due to Stackhouse. Everyone in the production either knew Stackhouse personally or through a friend.
The collaboration of these friends creates a personal glimpse into the actors’ lives to create a montage of various monologues and scenes. Topics covered include gay rights, female African-American political figures, obesity and interracial relationships.
“It is more of a conversation than a performance,” Calvin Atkinson, a junior theater major, said about the show.
Insomnia Theater wants their audience to see inequality in the country as a whole.
“[Inequality] is holding us back in general. People can’t go out and do what they want to do,” said cast member Victoria Evans-Quilloin, a junior communications major.
The cast added that the United States has many difficulties because the country lacks the freedom of personal expression. They also said prejudices and discrimina
tion keep people from being themselves, as expressed in a scene in which they each write “Equality” a personal letter.
The cast members of “54: All Together Equal,” who all wrote something of their own for the play, said they are proud of the intimacy and personalization they created in developing the play.
Despite the cast members’ distinctive personalities and experiences, they all come together to impose one strong statement of love.
Stackhouse said he wants his audience to leave remembering one thing.
“It is not your physicality or what you wear that makes you unique, but your choices,” he said.