[ By Dawne Belloise ]
One of the longest running programs at the Crested Butte Community School, Celebrate the Beat (CTB), will culminate this year in a performance on October 6 at 6 p.m. in the school gym. Crested Butte director of the organization, former local Colleen Macomber, has returned as she does yearly to lead the young student dance classes.
Colleen originally moved to Crested Butte in 2001 and was hired in 2009 by Celebrate the Beat, a Colorado based non-profit organization, to teach with them for their annual residency. Soon afterward, she became a traveling instructor teaching all across Colorado with Crested Butte as her home base. Since then, she’s directed the Riviera Nayarit, Mexico program of CTB and she explains, “That program was blessed and released to my program Creative Arts Momentum (CAM),” a program she began in 2016. “I now travel all over the country teaching with CAM and internationally. The beautiful part is that I have been coming back to the Butte for the past 14 years to teach.”
Colleen recently returned from a teaching residency in Cali, Colombia. She is currently writing a proposal to do an around the world project with dance.
This year’s performance theme of Celebrate the Beat is Seeds of Solutions and the participating kids will embark upon their own journey of discovery, Colleen says, “To learn about innovative approaches to creating a sustainable future. Using movement, students will embody how people from various other cultures care for ecosystems and use renewable energy, reforestation, and alternative transportation to preserve our precious planet. In the process, they will learn how they can be resourceful and contribute to caring for their own community.” Other themes in the past have included The Beatles, Motown, New Orleans, The Lorax, Systems of the Human Body, Visual Art, Mexico, and Poetry, to name a few.
Classes for the performing third, fourth and fifth grade students began on September 19 with eight rigorous dance classes culminating in a 30-minute high energy show. “We are an arts education program and with every step the students take, they are learning about our curricular theme, teamwork, self-confidence, and excellence. With unique teaching techniques students are engaged and having a joyful experience,” Colleen says. The dance ensemble will be accompanied by local musicians, Chris Kogos on keys, Lizzy Plotkin on the violin and vocals, and percussionist David Alderdice, from Paonia, with CTB musical director Jacob Lidard on piano.
When Colleen took over the CTB program in Mexico, she’d travel between there and her home here in CB and she now spends her winters in Mexico and returns to Crested Butte in the fall to teach. She’s also had programs in Aspen, Vail, and Paonia, which had her doing a 3-month summer tour. “The past two years we’ve been doing virtual shows because of COVID. It was a crazy thing. I separately filmed every class I taught,” she tells that she shot all the footage herself but hired a video editor to make it professional.
When COVID hit, Colleen was able to utilize CAM’s YouTube channel to continue her Mexican programs while waiting for schools to reopen. “CAM was able to continue classes in the local plazas. Because of our determination to keep our students engaged either virtually or at site locations, we did not miss a beat when schools reopened and despite all obstacles, we were able to conclude our biggest year yet.”
Most of the kids Colleen teaches have no dance experience at all, but the CTB, she says, is all inclusive and part of their curriculum. “It’s super basic, very tangible moves that every kid can succeed in. We teach rhythm in dance. Some of the Crested Butte students have been taking dance since they were three, some are scared to death because they’ve had no dance. At the end of the program, I see total transformation in these children as far as, they feel proud, they’re adrenaline is pumped. I do my wrap up class the day after the show and ask the kids how they feel,” she smiles and relates that her students tell her, “They’re proud, confident, and they say, ‘My mom couldn’t believe I did what I did!’ We’re building confidence in these kids.”
Celebrate the Beat has become a rite of passage for her and Colleen explains, “I have taught siblings throughout the years and have now seen my students start to have families and wow, that makes me feel old! It is a beautiful thing to now be teaching my friends’ children, who I first met when I moved to CB in 2001.”
For information about Creative Arts Momentum, visit creativeartsmomentum.com. For info about Celebrate the Beat visit the website at ctbeat.org.