Reach offers unique benefits beyond dance and performance training. A key goal of the program is to prepare teen apprentices for future employment and college. Reach was specifically designed to create a safe and secure learning environment for its teens, allowing them to get the most out of their summer experience.
The short-term objectives of Reach are to provide a supportive environment to build stronger, creative dancers and choreographers and to enhance essential skills for success, including self-esteem, responsibility, and communication skills. The long-term objectives are to help adolescents make wise choices and obtain the necessary skills to ensure a positive future for themselves, while giving them a background in dance.
According to a study conducted by the YouthARTS Development Project, teens who participate in the arts showed a decreased frequency of delinquent behavior when compared to their non-participating peers. Likewise, participating youth were more likely to show improvement in their attitudes toward school, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. Reach, as an arts program, provides this opportunity to both the teen apprentices and community members and groups that get involved.
Reach’s teen apprentices also work alongside professional staff and college interns, and they are encouraged to initiate ideas for the movement workshops and to co-teach. The special gifts of each teen dancer shape the repertory that is created. Apprentices witness adults focusing on a daily regimen, working through a creative process, meeting commitments, and continuing to grow and learn. In turn, the adults make a point of letting the company members know that they are respected and admired for their individual talents.
Teen apprentices spend time at Boston University, an urban college campus, and get a feel for the discipline and hard work needed to perform academically and artistically at the college level. Spending time on campus can also help teen interns become acclimated to the atmosphere of college life, and can reduce uncertainty about what to expect at a college.
Reach teen apprentices are coached in teaching methods and leadership, which helps prepare them to work in the community. In addition, participants are provided with mentoring and informational sessions focused on preparation for college admission. This component includes visits from the Boston University Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore as well as tutorial workshops taught by college interns.
I really appreciate how the Reach program encourages its participants to consider many different approaches to a career in dance. Right from the time I began dancing, I wanted to become a choreographer. When I first took part in the Reach program at the age of fifteen, I was given the opportunity to create my own dance piece. So not only was I being asked to train and rehearse every day in preparation for our tour, I was being asked to contribute to that tour by way of my own (albeit young) choreographic voice. The Reach program provides a first-hand knowledge of what it means to train, what it means to rehearse, what it means to make work, and what it means to perform as a touring company. It allows you to follow your interests in dance, while expanding your view of all those other interests you may never have even considered. When I returned to the Reach program as a college intern some years later, I was not only asked to make a piece, I was asked to teach classes in choreography and improvisation.
Every time I have had the opportunity to get involved with the Reach program, I have found the experience as challenging as it is rewarding. I have been made to exercise my strengths, and I have been made to stretch the limits of my comfort zone. And by way of the tour, I have been able to witness how important it is to bring dance to kids of all ages, to give them a taste of what a career in dance means. In this way, the Reach program gives its young participants the opportunity to start taking an active part in the dance world; to become valuable members of the dance community.
– Mike Winward, a Reach participant
“For the past four summers, first my son and then my daughter served as teen apprentices at Reach. The program provided my children excellent dance instruction in a wide range of styles, extensive performance experience, and invaluable role model and leadership opportunities. But what I find most remarkable about Reach is its knack for attracting—year after year—an extraordinary and diverse group of young people who are truly committed to the program, the art of dance, their communities, and each other. For five weeks each summer, Reach creates a space for kids who are passionate about dance to simultaneously focus on their art while stretching themselves, literally and figuratively! Beyond the five weeks, they have friendships with the other teens and the staff that are deep and lasting—it really does feel like a family. My kids definitely grew as dancers while at Reach, but they also came away from the program believing that they had been a part of something special—and they had.”
– Bethany, a Reach parent