Thursday, November 23, 2017

MS. CHINA: Dancing Forward

MS. CHINA: Dancing Forward

Ms. China brings the backing of an entertainment giant to the mentoring of Las Vegas’ next generation of performers

BY KIMBERLY BAILEY-TUREAUD

Ms. China is a teaching artist for the Disney Musical Theater in Schools program.

No one could have predicted last year that Ms. China — as she prefers to be called — would become a teaching artist for the Disney Musical Theater in Schools program.

In Clark County, the program is a partnership between Walt Disney Musical Theatre and The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Ms. China — who is well-known in the community for speaking out, participating in community town halls and teaching African dance at the Cultural Arts Center in Historic West Las Vegas — is passionate about the power of the arts.

“Theater, music, dance and the arts can change a young person’s life,” she says with confi dence. “The most important thing I have learned from the Disney training is that there are children who need it, and there are children with the capacity to maintain it. Some children are shy, just trying to fi nd their place in this world. But they all have special gifts and skills, and the arts can help them discover themselves. That is why Disney Musical Theater is such an awesome program.”

A resident of Las Vegas for the past 14 years, Ms. China has long been the source of thought-provoking entertainment as a writer, director, spoken-word artist and performer. As one of only six selected by Walt Disney Musical Theatre to serve as teaching artists in Las Vegas, she considers the distinction to be an honor.

“I always tell people to not burn bridges. Last year, you couldn’t have convinced me I would be working and representing Walt Disney Musical Theatre here in Vegas,” she said. “A good friend of mine thought about me when she received an email from Disney in New York, indicating that they were in search of local artists here in Las Vegas who could lead the Disney Musical Theater in Schools program. I filled out the application, went through a series of interviews and had to create a class model on how I would teach musical theater and mentor elementary school students. Once I did that, I got the call that I was selected as one of the teaching artists for the program. I went through a Disney training session, and was assigned to the local Will Beckley Elementary School.”

The program arrives in Las Vegas after a successful five-year run in New York schools convinced Disney to take it nationwide. A partnership with the well-established Smith Center helped jump-start the local edition.

“I am in my third week of facilitating the program, along with a designated partner at Will Beckley Elementary School,” said Ms. China. “My partner is in charge of the music and choreography, and I direct and mentor. The students have selected ‘Aladdin’ as their project, which we will be rehearsing for the debut of our grand show production at Will Beckley Elementary School, Jan. 29-31, 2014. The goal of the program that is funded by Disney and The Smith Center is to help schools develop a permanent musical theater program, with the school’s finale production used as a fundraiser to start and maintain their programs. We are also excited about bringing all six elementary schools that are participating in the program together to showcase their Disney musical productions on the big stage at The Smith Center on Feb. 4, 2014.”

Originally from Chicago, Ms. China plans to continue pursuing her artistic vision and working with young people after the Disney program concludes. “I want to continue my African dance classes, writing and directing my one-woman shows,” she says. “I look forward to developing an African dance program for babies. Wherever the spirit leads me — that is exactly where I want to be.”

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