eight smiling children performing a dance

Aniyah Legare Interview: The Experience of a WatotoAcademy Performer

young woman with long hair smiling
Sarah McCliment

Ashley Hall 6th grader, Meeting Street Academy alumni, and wise beyond her years Aniyah Legare is returning for another year as a member of the WatotoAcademy of Performing Arts. You can learn more about her and the upcoming January performances in the“ Love America…Love Everybody” concert series: This Joint is Jumpin’ from Aniyah in the interview below!

What skills have you learned in WatotoAcademy that you are applying in your everyday life?

Mr. O’Conner has taught us about “code-switching” and that there are different ways that you can interact with teachers, friends and family. For example, if my math teacher is very bubbly and silly then I know that I can do bubbly and silly things while still performing academically. But if I have a teacher who is stern, then I know I have to be on my Ps and Qs.

*Ps and Qs is an expression meaning to be on your best behavior.

I know you participated in last year’s WatotoAcademy’s Love America…Love Everybody concert series: That Sweet Soul Music. What was your favorite performance in the series?

Every performance comes with a history background and I love history. History made me, so I like all of it. You can’t pick and choose because it all comes from history.

What piece from That Sweet Soul Music do you find most intriguing?

I think it’s when we do both slow and fast dances. When it’s a slow dance, you think it’s telling a story because it’s very intriguing and calm. When it comes to the fast dances like jumping jives, it’s very intriguing too because you’re like, “what’s going to happen next”? I like all the songs and dances because they all tell a story–whether fast or slow.

Do you mind talking about the curriculum from this year’s performance This Joint is Jumpin’?

The curriculum is about history in the early 1900s from how we came from nothing and became something, covering academics to the way we looked and spoke. It’s also learning what our family did back in those days: how they dressed, how they looked, and how they danced. It’s very strong and impacting because it makes you see their perspectives like it’s firsthand.

What advice do you have for the newer members of the WatotoAcademy of Performing Arts?

To keep on working, to keep on working, and to keep on working. Not only in dance, but also in academics. Just like my grandmother told me, academics and manners can get you anywhere. I’d also tell them to take things seriously. Sometimes a hobby can turn into a job that can get you far. You can take your own style, not follow the leader, and make your own path.

What performer or performers do you look up to the most?

I started dancing at three years old with ballet. We mainly talked about Alvin Alley and Misty Copeland, who are very famous contemporary ballet dancers. I look up to them because not only did they dance beautifully, they also left their mark on the world and left a bold foot print for other kids to learn from. They showed that anything is possible.

Apart of being a member of the WatotoAcademy is learning about the particular era that the performance was inspired by. Why do you think this is important to learn?

Because of the history. We have been doing African dances that have been around for thousands and thousands of years. We are also doing dances from the early 1900s era, so the history is really good. It’s good for exercising and learning how they sowed things into the world, how they thought about the world, what places they went to, and how it was back then.

Why do you think people should come out to this year’s performance at Dock Street Theatre?

They should come to each and everyone because every single piece of our performances has a different story to tell. One tells about love and how we need to help each other. One is about how we’re jumping and jiving, how we’re gonna move and dance. One is about how we came from rock bottom and went up. So each one is different. Even though you saw a performance two years ago, it’s not going to be the same. People have to see it because they need to learn about the history and how things were.

How do you hope people feel after watching the performance?

I hope they feel impacted and know this is how my family made me. This is how the world shaped me to be who I am.

Why do you think Mr. O’ Conner chose this year’s theme Migration?

Again, it’s about how people went from rock bottom to now. We are getting an education, we are getting nice clothes, and we are not slaves anymore. We are the people now. I think he wanted to teach us that this is how hard our ancestors had to work for us to reach where we are now. It’s another level, another trial, and another barrier until we get where we are all equal. We all look the same, even though we aren’t the same.

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