the body poetik residency at alternative school for girls

Just before the holidays, I completed a 10-week residency with girls, ages 12 - 16, at PACE in Pinellas Park. PACE is a nonprofit, alternative school for girls who may have ended up in the corrections system due to truancy or behavioral issues at the regular public schools they were attending.

PACE is only partially funded by the Pinellas county school board. Much of the operations budget has to come from private donors. A fundraiser was planned for November, in which the girls would perform a spoken word poem that told a collective tale about the ways in which many girls come to PACE. It was a difficult piece, full of metaphors about social injustice, and graphic details about addiction, rape, and domestic violence.

I used thebodypoetik techniques with the girls to bring their imagination, empathy, and shared experiences to the script. We played physical improv, group bonding, and vocalization
games to help them relate to and really own their individual parts in the performance.

The event went well, with more than 200 donors in attendance.  More importantly, the girls had fun being fitted with microphones and greeting the donors along the spiral staircase. They spoke their lines with calm confidence and each girl had her own specific flare. They also got to witness the way their words brought about action. Almost $10,000 was pledged immediately after the performance..

Our last class want back to basics--the simple pleasure of connecting to a nurturing, natural state.  Girls read from their journals. We talked about explicit rap lyrics, we rapped a bit, boredom and wanting to be good. We compared notes on the care of guinea pigs and bunnies. One girl talked about accidentally landing on a manatee after she dove into a local river...her concern for the creature, and her horror at it's slimy, barnacled skin.

In the end, we made feet starfish for our goodbye selfie.

Luckily, VSA Florida has given thebodypoetik a  spring residency to return and work with the girls at PACE. This time, we will focus on performing our every day experiences through voice and movement. Each girl will have a solo There will be poetry, performance art and many stars!

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