When Cecily Stewart was a 2nd grader in Santa Barbara, CA, she attended a performance of State Street Ballet at her school. She knew then and there that she wanted to dance professionally, and indeed she did, dancing her way to New York, Virginia, and San Francisco. Now her career has come full circle, and Cecily is a company member of State Street, the very company that had such a strong impact on her seven-year-old self. As Cecily eventually came to realize, that particular school show had an additional effect on her life: it instilled her dedicated interest in outreach.
Fast forward to May 27 and 28, 2014, when Cecily will present the first installment of Library Dances, wherein high school students at San Marcos High School, under the theater direction of David Holmes, will literally dance their way through their required reading curriculum. Talking to Cecily, it seemed as if everything could be wrapped up as neatly as her own career background: “every student and child should have the opportunity to be inspired by classical dance.” Ballets tell stories, literature tells stories, and dance can (and will) appeal to students who are visual, audial, or somatic learners. The original idea behind the program was that dance can be used to teach the required readings, at least supplementally. In addition, the fifty students involved will receive volunteer hours and credits towards their “linked learning” requirement, which aims to provide them with professional experience before graduating. They’ll dance alongside the professional dancers of SSB, whose director has been especially supportive of Stewart’s endeavor.
Library Dances will feature Stewart’s versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set to Mendelssohn, and The Gift of The Magi to music by Yann Tiersen. Some students will perform the work, others will work the technical side, and still others will be front of house. But everyone participates in the technique class, which encompasses ballet, jazz, and contemporary styles of movement. Seeing students of all shapes, sizes, and levels applauding for each other’s grand jetes inspires Stewart, who is eager to see Library Dances make dance accessible to more students each year.