Courtney Celeste Spears is more excited for ArtSea Dance this year more than ever, considering the pandemic that the world has had to navigate in the past 19 months.
“I’ve been more excited for ArtSea this year more than ever,” says Spears, co-founder and director of ArtSea Dance, as they celebrate five years of the movement that is a weekend-long convention dedicated to helping aspiring young dancers cultivate their talent and recognize the potential in pursuing a professional dance career.
“After a long year of being stuck inside not being able to move in a full capacity, I can’t even express what it feels to see a room full of dancers doing what they love – and young dancers at that! When I think back to what got us through the pandemic, it was art. Dance, art, and music kept our souls at peace. For many of us, dance is our safe space and feels like home getting back to it again,” said Spears.
“As a dancer myself [with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater] my happiest moments are when I’m dancing. And now, I’m finding that same joy watching these students find their own paths as artists. They kept me motivated. They kept me pushing. My purpose feels full circle when I’m helping them grow and find their voices.”
The main ArtSea Dance program for participants ages seven to 18 will be held on Sunday, November 14 at The Island House. Dancers aged 14 and older will have class in the morning slot and ages seven to 13 will have class in the afternoon.
The program will include a dance class, wellness class (which is prioritized as Spears said it’s essential that dancers know how to take care of their bodies for health and longevity), followed by a dance film (“City of Rain” which is choreographed by iconic choreographer Camille A. Brown) and a question and answer (Q&A) session.
“Camille is one of the dance industry’s most treasured choreographers and creative minds. It’s an honor for her to allow us the opportunity to show her work to our students. And what’s make it special, is that I had the pleasure of dancing this work as it premiered on the Ailey company a couple years ago,” said Spears.
As for the Q&A session, she said while it’s important to dance physically, that it’s equally important stop to have conversation surrounding the art form.
Spears will teach the final session for the main program. Classes offered will be in the modern dance style with a contemporary flare.
In addition to the main programming, a mommy and me class for students ranging from ages three to six has been added to this year’s line-up.
Students, along with their parents, will be provided an interactive, dance experience that showcases the basics of ballet and rhythm. It’s open for young girls and boys.
Owing to the huge community of future little dancers, Spears said she and co-founder Asa Cary who is also ArtSea Dance’s executive producer, wanted to make sure they were included as well. The class will take place on Saturday, November 13 at The Island House at 10 a.m.
Spears said she and Cary had to get creative on how to make the program work in the pandemic and with the safety protocols.
“We were so blessed to have the support of The Island House staff to help. We celebrated our fifth year, and I couldn’t think of a more beautiful space to bring people together. We wanted to make the experience one that would leave the students not only inspired but aware of all the tools they already possess for greatness.”
Participants have to wear masks at all times, even when dancing; hand sanitization is a must, and health forms, and attestation documents she said will be provided upon arrival.
To make sure the room isn’t overcrowded, they can only accommodate 20 people per session.
As she continues to look to the future of ArtSea, Spears who had a lot of time off this year from her company because they weren’t able to tour, spent every day that she wasn’t required to be in New York City in New Providence engaging with the community. She was able to teach a range of students across the island, and says she’s inspired now more than ever. She had the opportunity to not just teach students, but to teach adults and lead them through dance inspired workouts.
“Our next steps and long-term dream for ArtSea is to find the support to build a communal space that celebrates all things dance. A space that offers after school programming, dance classes, adult dance classes, workout classes, performances, dance clothing, and more. I’m constantly inspired by my home, and want to do everything in my power to support the arts, especially dance, and make it a sustainable outlet and career option. Even though we’ve done so much work to get ArtSea to where it is, I’m certain that this just the beginning of all that God has in store,” said Spears.
ArtSea registration is now open to the public for the main programming and mommy and me session. Both sessions are $40 per student. Spots can be secured at www.ArtSeadance.org.