My dance class is also the strongest community I know. Over the years we have weathered many tragedies together. Three of my peers have lost a parent – one to cancer, one to a fire, one to a fluke accident. Others have endured family turmoil and divorce, financial reversals, and illness. But throughout it all, we have always been there for each other, and we make dances about all aspects of our lives. After 9/11, which many of us witnessed firsthand, we choreographed a piece that helped us to cope with our overwhelming emotions. We are there for each other in the good times as well. Once I heard a little “meow” coming from the stairway as we rehearsed; it was a tiny kitten. I helped coax it out and sat with it until I talked my parents into letting me take her home. We named her “Loco.” When my dance teacher adopted a baby, we all pitched in to keep class going while she was away. Every day one or two of us would teach a class: each teaching her favorite style, from ballet to modern. As a company, we have won some recognition in the arts world. We have performed at Columbia University and several New York theaters; we have been written up in New York arts publications. But for me, it's not about the publicity, or even about the dance. It's about working closely with this group of people and growing up together. Keeping a commitment to dance hasn’t always been easy. With a busy high school schedule, going to dance class sometimes seemed less compelling than studying for a big test or hanging out with friends. But quitting was never an option. My dance class is my haven. It is an intimate setting I can go to after many hours in my overcrowded public high school. It is there that I have a voice and a home.
-- Samantha Paltrow-Krulwich
Although all of these pursuits gave me respite, dance gave me something more. I found a haven in the dust-covered basement of an old church. Upon entering the basement, I was always greeted by my loving dance teacher. She was small in stature, and appropriately her imagination was, and still is, at the peak of a child's. One day she took me over to the corner near the stage and placed five pennies in my hand, she told me to drop them. I did. She gathered them up again and asked me to drop them once more. I did. Each time these copper coins rolled from my finger tips and gently wobbled to the ground they created a different unique pattern along the floor. Then she placed her hand lightly on my shoulder, and said "you're ready to make a dance." At first I did not truly comprehend my lesson in spatial patterns, but through the passing weeks I grew to enjoy the creative freedom I was given. The body was no longer just a functioning organism, but it was my canvas.
-- Phoebe DeVincenzi
At 7 years old I stood almost eye level with Lisa Pilato. Perhaps it was our proximity in height, but Lisa has always felt more like a friend than an instructor.
Lisa introduced us to basic concepts of movement and then sent us off to create our own dances. We quickly learned to express ideas and feelings through movement. At Loco‐Motion we the students choreograph our own pieces and create our own styles of dance. Even as a child I knew Loco‐Motion was a special place. I could feel the power of this freedom to choreograph before I understood what freedom really meant; as I grew older and felt the constrictions of our world close in I began to learn the true value this liberty held.
-- Rosa Bluestone Perr
Down the steps of the rustic St. Veronicas church on Christopher Street, there lives a unique energy fused together by dancing angels. The grey mildew-scented basement has been the dance and choreography studio for the incredible Loco–Motion students for over twenty years now, and it has been my haven since I was ten years old. I can truthfully say that it is the most special place in my world. Through Loco-Motion I have explored Modern Dance, Hip Hop, West African Dance, Choreography, Improvisational Dance, and more, all in a safe and uncompetitive learning environment. Loco-Motion students delve into the raw depths of their creative unconscious as they collaboratively choreograph innovative dances. In every class, Lisa Pilato, the dance instructor, leads improvisations in which all of the students lucidly dance and transform into free spiritual beings. Rather than “right” or “wrong” governing their dancing, it is their intuition that directs their movements. Loco-Motion is a thriving community where there is no arbitrary division between age groups. Five-year-old students will choreograph with fifteen-year-old students, which creates mutual respect and awe. Loco-Motion became all-consuming for me in my high school years, and now that I am in college, I am certain that I always want it to be part of my life. Through the transforming years of high school it became my pure outlet of expression and the positive force that willed me to rise every morning. Working collaboratively with children has expanded my life as an artist. The choreographic process has heightened my ability to communicate in a way that is not constricted by traditional language. But most of all, the radiant energy that blooms in Loco- Motion has become a part of me, and inspires me to look at the world through a creative and harmonious lens.
-- Jane Stiles O’Hara
Loco-Motion provides a service for children that I have yet to see paralleled in other youth arts programs. As an alumni and former guest teacher from Loco-Motion, my perspective refers both to the experience of training in both dance and theatre, as well as the process of forming the school’s educational process. The dynamism of the curriculum is based in training in self-created, collaborative, and instructed dance and theatre. The students learn how to follow direction and execute the choreography of others, in addition to writing and choreographing material for performance as individuals and as a group. This is true not only of the older age groups of teenage years, but also of the younger classes. It was a joy to have been given the guidance and freedom to begin a relationship with the creative process at such a young age. As a bystander at Loco-Motion one can behold a class of eight-year old artists creating an ensemble dance piece, as they demonstrate discipline and critical thought, as well as the confidence and license to make their ideas reality.
There is another quality that has made my experiences at Loco-Motion indispensible. Loco-Motion creates a very special community amongst its participants. The program provides an emotional base of support for its students. When a student of Loc-Motion is victim to a personal tragedy or adversity, the program offers strong support and empathy. When I experienced extreme loss as a child, Loco-Motion acted as a family, lifting me up when I needed lifting. Since then, I have seen Loco-Motion do the very same for other student youths, time and again, even in recent times. In the daily classroom environment of Loco-Motion, there is a clear sense of encouragement that I believe fosters the student’s sense of self-confidence and artistic inspiration. Perhaps this is why Loco-Motion strikes a balance between a positive learning environment and a high standard of work. The dance and theatre pieces produced by Loco-Motion are of a professional quality in performance and creativity. Under the artistic direction of Lisa Pilato, Loco-Motion continues to deliver quality annual performances, attracting more students every year as others hear what a special experience studying at Loco-Motion is.
Loco-Motion cannot be discussed without addressing its tremendous scholarship program. I was a Loco-Motion student on scholarship for eighteen years. I was never turned away for a lack of funds. Many of my peers and students were able to attend because of Loco-Motion’s scholarship program. Because of Loco-Motion’s ethic of acceptance, the student body is very diverse economically, ethnically and socially. The children of Loco-Motion come from many different kinds of backgrounds and these differences are celebrated within the Loco-Motion community. My education at Loco-Motion spanned beyond dance and theatre through the company of my peers, as well as from the material used to inspire our work. The Many of us, (myself included), grew up to attend prestigious art schools and to pursue a profession in the arts. Without Loco-Motion, many of us would not have made it that far in life, thanks to both the skills and support we received from the program.
-- Julia Paskin