Mustang Consulting in New York

Jade is a junior dance major with a minor in psychology and is from Jacksonville, Florida. This summer, she is working with 11 other SMU dance and CCPA students, along with Dr. Maria Dixon, on a mustangconsulting project to help revitalize the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s touring company. Other Mustang Consultants will be adding their entries to this blog throughout the summer.

Our big moment: an update from Jade

Our packing began on August 2 so that we could be prepared for our departure on August 5 … Boxes, suitcases, bubble wrap, and tape were just a few of the ingredients that went into our packing pot. No one ever told me that it would take so long and be so hard. It was no joke. I did not realize how much stuff I had accumulated over what would seem like a short time. Ten weeks had flown by so fast, and now it was time to go.

Time to show what we’d learned
In the midst of all the packing we were preparing for our final presentation to The Dance Theatre of Harlem. Board members, faculty and staff, the executive director and the artistic director were among the individuals that we would have to present to. This was our defining moment, where we would put all the interviewing, transcribing, observing and analyzing to work. We had to tell them what all this meant. Nerves were up in the air, and that feeling I had in my stomach when we first arrived had just returned. The thought of speaking in front of such powerful, intelligent individuals frightened me. I just knew I would fumble on the simplest words.

But it was time. As I took my place in the presentation, Dr. McPhail, the new chair of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, popped into my head. “You are the expert” is what he said to us before he left, and up there in front of those people I was.

After the successful presentation, the overwhelming feelings that come along with leaving family filled imy chest. I tried to hold them back, but tears poured down my face. I had gotten so close to this organization, and leaving it would be extremely difficult. I particularly feel in love with the artistic faculty. They proved that no matter what you look like – Black, White, Indian, or Hispanic – the art form of ballet could be seen on you! They made me and the other team members of mustangconsulting love them.

When it came time to go, I stayed back after my colleagues dispersed and took the scene of Manhattan in for one last time. From the first day that I had arrived to now, everything was in slow motion. No more flying people, no more horns honking, and lighting up billboards. For now it was just New York and me. Here my dreams have become reality.

Back in D-TOWN
We have arrived back from New York City after two months of hard work and networking. It is hard to believe that I was back in Dallas, or as my friends would say, “D-TOWN”! The richness of the experience NYC gifted to me is much harder to put into words now than it was before. I and my colleagues are different people. Seeing us as students transform into professional business men and women – not only being the part but dressing the part – is a memory that I will have forever.

“Do one thing everyday that scares you,” Eleanor Roosevelt said, and we did just that. We got over our fears of public speaking, navigating through the streets of the Big Apple, working in a group, answering to a strong-willed boss, and Mr. Mitchell I must not forget. We did things that we never could have imagined, and all thanks to individuals who gave the now professionals of mustangconsulting an opportunity.

– Jade

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This week has been a whirlwind

An update from mustangconsulting team member Sarah
(Sarah is a junior with a dance and CCPA double major.)

This week has been a whirlwind. Between finishing data collection and the start of the Dance Theatre of Harlem Summer Dance Intensive, our team has had its hands full.

Dance Theatre of Harlem Summer Dance Intensive
On Monday, anxious and bright-eyed, we arrived at Dance Theatre of Harlem for our first day of the summer dance intensive. The morning began with an orientation. Arthur Mitchell, the Artistic Director and Founder of DTH, enthusiastically addressed the room full of inquisitive parents and eager bun-heads. He is a charismatic and inspiring teacher, to say the least. After listening to him speak for 15 minutes, I learned more about dance and personal presentation than I often do after a grueling day of classes.

Mr. Mitchell set a tone for the intensive by explaining that being a dancer means adopting an attitude of poise and confidence. He explained this attitude as an “awareness of self.” He had us practice his point by facilitating an exercise in which he asked every student to boldly proclaim his/her name and hometown. “Speak up and sit tall in your chair!” he roared to a student who slumped shyly in his chair. “Say ‘I Am’ with authority!” Mr. Mitchell continued by insisting we approach our daily lives with this attitude, both in the classroom and merely walking down the street. “Dance is theatre. We are performers. If you do not present yourself with authority, how can you expect people to buy a ticket to watch you apologizing for yourself onstage?” Mr. Mitchell’s words of wisdom have remained etched in my mind through the week as I practice in dance class and as I self-correct my posture while sitting on the subway.

After arriving back at the dorms, Jessica, Jade and I spent the afternoon preparing our dance attire in accordance with the DTH dress code.
Because DTH predominately consists of black dancers, they require flesh-tone tights and shoes, breaking the ballet tradition of pink accoutrements. In one afternoon, Jessica’s bedroom floor transformed into a visual cacophony of brown and beige tights, spray cans, pointe shoes, ribbons, elastic, scissors, needles and thread! After I finished sewing, I proudly pranced around the room in my brand-new pointe shoes, seeking a critique from Jade and Jessica on my sewing job. They laughed as I exploited the nearby wall as a barre, practicing tends and relevs while awaiting their response.

Last Friday we had the unique opportunity to take a dance class taught by the legendary DTH prima ballerina, Virginia Johnson. I especially enjoyed taking Ms. Johnson’s class because she focused on the importance of developing artistry along with technique. “I want you to focus on your eyes this class,” she said, “Your eye focus communicates to the audience. Where are you looking? What are you communicating?” I found her insights a refreshing reminder, because I often become bogged down in class, focusing on my technique more than aspects of my performance.

DTH has made a huge impact on our dancing in only one week! With two weeks of the intensive remaining, I eagerly anticipate the continued opportunity for technical, artistic, and personal growth.

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