Through the new virtual program featuring Dorrance Dance, on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, from 10:00 am – 10:45 am (PST) The Music Center will celebrate its 50th Annual Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival, sharing the joy of the arts with youth throughout Los Angeles. The 30 minute online program will include performance excerpts and tap dance lessons for everyone with a customized curriculum guide for students in grades 3-12. This is the second year for the festival to occur online since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A support organization of The Music Center, the Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival began in 1970 by Blue Ribbon President Helen Wolford and The Music Center founder Dorothy Buffum Chandler and it has continued as an important part of The Music Center’s commitment to engage young people in the arts. This year’s festival will expand its traditional invitation to fifth graders by including students in grades 3–12 throughout Los Angeles County and their families. The presentation will be available to watch on demand for a limited time through June 30, 2021.

This year the festival will provide students with the wonderful opportunity to experience a performance by an internationally known professional dance company, Dorrance Dance. Students are encouraged to dance along at home using the provided targeted curriculum guide for students who wish to participate.

An award-winning tap dance company based in New York City, Dorrance Dance is known for honoring the tradition of tap dance while simultaneously pushing past its own boundaries to discover new and original possibilities. For this virtual program, the company will guide students through an amazing experience by performing sections from five of Dorrance Dance’s most dynamic pieces. They include a dynamo duet created by Josette Wiggan-Freund and Joseph Wiggan, both of whom are Los Angeles-based artistic associates with Dorrance Dance and former grand prize finalists in The Music Center’s Spotlight Program.

Josette Wiggan-Freund and Joseph Wiggan in a scene from Dorrance Dance’s “The Nutcracker Suite” - Photo by Christopher Duggan courtesy of Dorrance Dance

Josette Wiggan-Freund and Joseph Wiggan in a scene from Dorrance Dance’s “The Nutcracker Suite” – Photo by Christopher Duggan courtesy of Dorrance Dance

To learn some of the basics of tap dancing, viewers can log onto prior to the March 2, 2021 premiere date for instructional videos as well as the curriculum guide that illuminates the repertory, vocabulary and history of tap dance, and provides multiple lessons to implement in the classroom. The program also includes aural and visual  descriptions and the specific steps of an easy-to-learn dance routine created by Music Center teaching artist Tara Cook Davis so that participants can dance together at the program’s end. Dorrance Dance’s program highlights what is most thrilling, brilliant and beautiful about tap dancing and will be directed by Nicole Alexander, in collaboration with Michelle Dorrance as dance director.

“For more than fifty years, the women of The Blue Ribbon have set the bar in Los Angeles for their ongoing commitment to arts education, volunteerism and financial support for The Music Center and its resident companies. The Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival is emblematic of our work and has always been a special day of the year for both young people in Los Angeles and our members alike,” said Terri Kohl, president, The Blue Ribbon. “We believe the performing arts are a true gift to humanity, and we work very hard to ensure everyone, especially children, can experience the joys and thrills that music, dance and theatre can offer online and in-person—they just need that opportunity. We’re very excited to continue this long-standing tradition in a new, accessible format that will reach an even larger audience of students and fans in Los Angeles, until we can dance together in person once again.”

Dorrance Dance in "SOUNDspace" - Choreography by Michelle Dorrance - Photo by Stephanie Berger, courtesy of The Music Center

Dorrance Dance in “SOUNDspace” – Choreography by Michelle Dorrance – Photo by Stephanie Berger, courtesy of The Music Center

“Because of the great work and enthusiasm of The Blue Ribbon, hundreds of thousands of students have come to The Music Center to experience a professional dance performance and the opportunity to dance themselves at this very special place for more than 50 years. The Blue Ribbon’s commitment continues the legacy of our founder Dorothy Buffum Chandler who advocated that the performing arts should be an active part of Los Angeles,” said Rachel S. Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center. “We’re grateful for the tireless efforts of these great partners, not only for The Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival, but for all the work they do and support they offer, which most definitely benefits every visitor who comes to The Music Center campus.”

In 1970 children visited The Music Center’s Mark Taper Forum for performances of Paul Sills’ Story Theatre. By 1973, The Blue Ribbon tailored the annual arts event for fifth grade students within Los Angeles County. Other performances seen by students throughout the years include the LA Phil, LA Opera, American Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet, Diavolo Dance Theater and Ailey II, among others. Blue Ribbon member Maxine Dunitz made a $1 million gift to ensure that every student who attends the Festival will receive A Journey Through The Music Center, a book that introduces the performing arts and The Music Center. The book is continually updated and reprinted each year.  From its founding through 2019, The Music Center’s arts education program has hosted more than 890,000 students from all over Los Angeles County,  many whom it was their first-time ever attending a live performance.

Calendar Listings

When: Tuesday, March 2, 2021, from 10:00 a.m.–10:45 a.m.

Where: The Music Center Offstage

To register, click HERE.

*Artists and programs subject to change

To learn more about Dorrance Dance, click HERE.

By Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Dorrance Dance in Basses Loaded – Choreography by Michelle Dorrance – Photo by Stephanie Berger, courtesy of The Music Center