For over a decade Esperanza and Esperanza Academy have been partnering with Opera Philadelphia in various programs. From the moment that T-VOCE was created, our partnership has extended from simple participation into ongoing collaboration. Through working with our Philadelphia youth and finding moments and spaces for them to also work together, we’ve been able to further deepen our relationship, and that’s what the T-VOCE program and concert has given us. More importantly, it has given our youth, who are oftentimes from different parts of the city, a chance to share their talents and further empower each other. We look forward to this partnership every year and planning out these amazing opportunities for our students, and despite being faced with the limitations due to the pandemic, we forged forward with our program plans and were able to still provide an amazing and unique opportunity for our students. When my students found out we were still going forward with the program and live concert this past year, they were so excited, and it gave them hope through this tough year.
Music, dance, and poetry combine in a celebration of the human spirit, featuring teen performers from two Philadelphia performing arts groups. T-VOCE, a cross-city youth choir, and the Esperanza Dance Ensemble, part of the Esperanza Academy Charter School, were joined by the city’s premiere experimental cabaret troupe, The Bearded Ladies, to explore how creative resilience can thrive during challenging times.
This was the description of a production performed at the Cherry Street Pier on Wednesday, May 19th, 2021. But the collaboration to bring the performances to life included six Philadelphia organizations: ArtSmart; Fortress Arts Academy; Opera Philadelphia; Play On, Philly; Singing City; and the Esperanza Dance Ensemble. The concert was called The Art of Resilience, to honor the strength and perseverance demonstrated across our city and the country. More powerful than the official program description are the words of participants in this beautiful collaborative effort, which was the first live performance for the EA Dance Ensemble since January of 2020:
«It was an absolute joy to work with Esperanza Dance and T-VOCE on The Art of Resilience. Watching the virtuosity, power, and wisdom that the youth artists/mentors brought to the stage reminded me why the Beardmobile was created in the first place – to offer a collective exhale after such a trying year and to bring artists and audiences together to imagine a world where we are all thriving. The performance was electric, and I left in awe of everyone’s talents.»
Cat Ramirez, Staff Producer, Bearded Ladies Cabaret
“Preparing for the project made me nervous, because I had never really performed in a group like this or in front of a lot of people. It was great and a fun experience to do with so many of the other dancers and older dancers. When it was my turn to perform, I was not as nervous as I thought I would be, I didn’t think about it too much and I did it. If I didn’t join the dance group, I pretty much would have just sat in my room and played the game all day and not leave the house. This opportunity helped me a lot through the pandemic, mentally and physically.”
Vicnelys, EA sophomore
“I remember first meeting T-VOCE when I was a sophomore in high school. I remember that day as if it was yesterday! Meeting other kids my age who express themselves by singing, and then having the opportunity to dance to their singing, was such an amazing experience. While COVID struck, I was so excited to hear that T-Voce wanted to collaborate once again and do a LIVE performance! This concert wasn’t just dancers. It had other talented singers and musicians that displayed their art for others to see. I can imagine how much they longed for that moment because we were all in the same place.
Andrick, EA senior
“Throughout our years of collaborating, Esperanza Academy Dance Ensemble and T-VOCE have created many wonderful performances. It was heartbreaking in 2020 when we had to cancel our annual performance due to COVID. After almost a year of social distancing, the event last May was an extremely powerful moment that celebrated the resiliency of our youth, their artistry and art making that connects us. The event reminded us of all that art has the power to heal and that collaborative art making creates community.” -Veronica Chapman-Smith, V.P. of Community Initiatives at Opera Philadelphia
The Art of Resilience also previews a day when we will be free to gather for artistic expression after months of interaction via computer screens. The concert is a symbol of our adaption, but also our hope for the future.
EA Dance Ensemble en la pieza Patria. (Foto:Dave DiRentis/T-VOCE)