More in News
Positive messages through performing arts
Yollando “Yoyo” Roberson (center) taught Dellshawn Harris (left) and Raeshawn Harris to always give it their best in dancing. Both students learned dancing at City Lights North.
FARMINGTON -- What do you get when you cross a dedicated professional trainer, choreographer and performer with local kids who are willing to work harder than they’ve ever worked for two weeks?
The answer is City Lights North.
More than 100 people crowded into a room with a temperature exceeding 85 degrees with high humidity. There were less than 20
chairs. Some people brought folding camp chairs. Some stood. Others sat on pillows on the wooden floor.
They do this to take part in City Lights North, an intense two-week training program in the performing arts for children and young adults in dance, singing and acting. At the end of the program, the participants performed an eclectic mix of dance and singing in the old State Theater on Broadway Street in Farmington. One act even included swordplay!
So who is the professional trainer who gets more out of the participants than they believe is possible? Duggan Hill is responsible. While his name may not be familiar to many, his former students include members of New Kids on the Block and Russell Ferguson, winner of "So You Think You Can Dance” in 2009.
According to Boston City Lights Foundation website, “Duggan Hill is the founding executive director of Boston City Lights. He has dedicated his life to serving inner-city youth. More than 20 years ago, he envisioned opening school for Boston’s underprivileged youth, an education and performance center that would provide children a supportive channel for their creativity. In 1979, Boston City Lights became a reality and has since served thousands of the city’s children.”
In addition to his work in Boston, Hill has organized and taught a two-week program, known as City Lights North, for the past 10 years in Farmington. This exciting annual program was offered the area youth totally free of charge.
First-time dancer Dellshawn Harris will be a freshman at Mountain Valley High School. She explained, “It wasn’t that hard to learn the dances. It took a lot of work though -- every day for two weeks, seven hours a day!”
She sang a solo in Just Fine by Mary J. Blige but her favorite was performing a hip-hop dance to Let Me See Those Hands.
Dellshawn’s younger brother also learned dancing for the first time. Raeshawn Harris will be an eighth grader at Mountain Valley Middle School in the fall.
Like his sister, Raeshawn liked dancing to Let Me See Those Hands. “I learned 6-step and modern dance.”
For the uninitiated, 6-step is a break dance move where the dancer supports his body with his arm while his legs walk in a circle.
Part of the winning formula for the program is participants learning from and teaching each other. This enables the youth to develop responsibility and self-worth.
Dellshawn, also a Mountain Valley Majorette, said she could transfer some of the skills to Majorettes. “I learned how to help others and now I can do that with Majorettes,” she explained.
Both Hill and the teachers who help him are strong on positive messages.
Yollanda “Yoyo” Roberson worked with both Dellshawn and Raeshawn. She traveled from the studio in Boston.
According to Dellshawn, “She’s fun, she’s a good dancer and a good teacher. She taught me to dance. She also taught to never give up and always give it your best. Duggan said the same thing.”
Other area participants included students from Dirigo High School. Oscar Deroche played the guitar and also danced. Trevor Stathan and Aighden Weishar also showed their moves.
Though not present at the performance, Erich Zurhorst, Mountain Valley director, thespian, musician, vocalist, and now alumnus, worked as an instructor. He taught the theatrical fencing and some of the hip-hop moves.
If a crowd of people braving the heat and smiling, happy dancers are measures of success, City Lights North and Duggan Hill hit the mark!