FLEX DANCE PROGRAM
Artistic Expression | Transformative Growth
Expanding Minds Through Flex Dance and Creative Mentorship
The Flex Program(Founded in 2014) is an arts education initiative that fosters positive growth among young people in difficult circumstances through mindful movement, creative storytelling, and Flex dance. The Flex Program employs renowned dancers from local communities to develop dance routines with our students, promoting self-esteem, cooperation, and communication. We seek to transform physical energy into positive, non-verbal self-expression that offers an alternative to conflict. We have worked with about 250 youth so far, and reach approximately 120 youth with our program every year.
In the Flex Program we work with “Youth at Promise”. These are detained youth and inner-city kids. In the Flex Program we believe that every youth is “at Promise” rather than “At Risk”. There is a lot of stigma related to detained youth and their abilities. Through our experience working with these kids we have learned that many have great creative talents and potential. All they need is a little guidance and support.
While generally beneficial, the program is targeted particularly for youth in marginalized communities and those in institutional care. For the latter recidivism is a pressing issue with nearly 70% of youth returning to detention centers only after a few weeks of release. One of the aims of this program is to introduce these kids to a community of dance where they can practice, learn and get an artistic outlet (FlexOUT). The Flex community frequently holds dance events, freestyle sessions, and competitions where young people can get involved. These events will be of great service for kids who want to seek out healthy competition, and develop their artistic skills.
We believe that relatedness is key to our success. Having lived similar circumstances, our artists are credible in their lessons and instructions. Dance is a gateway for self expression, cooperation and physical exercise. Creative development is likewise a key component of the Flex Program. Artists instruct and perform as company. It is our aim to sustain future efforts through income generated through these endeavors. As students mature, they are likewise welcomed to serve as instructors and company members.
The Flex Program is administered by voluntary efforts entirely, and calls on the talents of a diverse team of professional artists who split their time between instructing and performing. The artists are instrumental in our mentoring sessions, and are the main focal point of the organization, attracting awareness at performances and provide stability during teaching sessions. The teaching artists express that they find purpose in sharing their craft, and value the meaningful work they do with the youth.
In August of 2014, The Flex Program, under the direction of Ragnhild Bruland, was approved by Sonia Galarza and Division of Youth and Family Justice in NYC. Bruland took the initiative to create Flex Program after her work in detention centers and public schools through The Lineage Project. When moving from Norway to New York years ago Bruland was inspired to work with youth and dancing. With a background in dance, theater and music, and as a Psychology Graduate she strongly believes in the value of artistic expression and its positive effects on mental health.
The Flex Program is currently under ACS (Administration of Children’s Services) contracts to provide our Flex Dance Sessions to youth in Crossroads and Horizons Secure Detention Centers in New York. The Flex Program is expanding their program to reach children in Foster Care Facilities, Elementary Schools, and High Schools in NYC. The Flex Program also received two Awards from Brooklyn Arts Council to provide FlexOUT sessions to youth from Crown Heights and Brownsville in Brooklyn. FlexOUT includes performances transforming public places through arts. We have volunteered our time at Sheltering Arms Group Homes and at numerous events with SOS Mediation Center, BK Nation, and Brownsville Community Justice Center. We were also selected for the SONYC afterschool programming at Horizons 2015. Do to the high volume of sessions, we have now been offered to submit our curriculum to the Department of Education with the aim of being eligible for school credit and accreditation.
As stated by staff members, a pressing issue in the center is the number of kids that return to detention only after a few weeks of release. One of the aims of this program is to introduce these kids to an artistic community where they can get an artistic outlet, and to empower young individuals to express themselves in creative ways.
The Flex community frequently holds dance events, freestyle sessions, and competitions where young people can get involved. Transforming energy into a positive, non-verbal expression might help the program participants find personal solutions to conflict in fundamentally non-violent ways.
We aim to expand this program to other countries and collaborate with more artists across the world. We are developing a sustainable program for years to come that can be developed in other detention centers both Nationally and Internationally. Our FlexIN FlexOUT Initiative (see menu) explains our current International Collaborations.
The Flex Program primarily concentrates on the instruction of Flex Dance – a style of street dance that is characterized by rhythmic movement in different forms such as bone breaking, waving, illusions/punchlines, hat-dancing, connecting, pausing, gliding, get-low and bruk-up. We will also have guest teachers in Hip Hop, Dancehall, African Dance, Animation/Theater, Lite Feet and Lyrical.
Flex is a unique form of dance that originated on the streets of Brooklyn in the 1990s. Flexing is distinguished by its contortionist body movements, and its “no-rules”, narrative story-telling capabilities. Because of the reactive nature of Flex, the dancer is often inspired by his immediate environment and is free to tell his or her own story, making for a very emotional performance.
At its core, Flex is a deeply personal art form, and has been shown to help the Flex-Artists cope psychologically with his or her circumstances. It is the aim of the FLEX Dance Program, through community engagements like performances, showcases and battles, and smaller group mentoring sessions with at-risk youth and youth in secure detention, to spread mass awareness of Flex dancing and its benefits. Flex has a wonderful way of integrating experience into non-verbal expression.
The unique nature of Flex dance helps express individual experiences and dramatize performances. Flex dancing acknowledges old habits in order to build new ones. In Flex dance we connect the movements to the students’ lifestyle and environment, and through the movement they learn more positive, non-violent ways of expressing themselves. Flexing is taught all around the world. It is a style of dance that truly possesses the foundational techniques for many other dance forms and unlocks true potential of the dancer’s body and mind.
The Flex Program promotes creativity, keeps kids engaged and socially aware, provides them with a sense of pride, and fosters success during recreational periods. By providing positive outlets for self-expression, the program aims to help participants find healthier solutions to conflict in productive, non-violent ways.
Flex is a style of dance that truly possesses the foundational techniques for many other dance forms and unlocks true potential of the user’s body and mind. This genre of dance is very difficult to master and requires much practice.
Reem (Ice Cream)- Get Low Style
Reggie (Regg Rock)- Pausing Style
Tafari- Pausing Style
Bryan- Marty McFly- Gliding
Corry- Guttah- Connects-Hat Tricks
Hobby- Hob Goblin- Bonebreaking
*On this website you will predominately see Teaching Artists in the Flex Program.
Due to ACS rules we have to protect the identity of the youth we work with in the centers.
Photography by Christian Anwander, SooJi Lee, and Reginald Thomas.
Follow us @Flexdanceprogram @FlexINFlexOUT
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