In Performance, 100s of After-School Kids Reveal 'The Secret Life of Plants'

Weiran Kang, left, and Alice Brooklyn Tarbox Windish dance to "Come Back As A Flower," from "The Secret Life of Plants." Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jun. 04, 2017

Poetry and motion. That was the idea behind the dance concert performed on June 3 by students in Manhattan Youth’s after-school programs. The production, staged in the P.S./I.S. 89 auditorium, featured not only the two dozen choreographed works performed by kids in eight programs, but some of their poetry as well.

Video excerpts from the show featuring after-school students from P.S. 234, P.S. 276, P.S. 150 and the Downtown Community Center.

Titled “The Secret Life of Plants,” (after the 1970s book, and a documentary with Stevie Wonder soundtrack), each dance piece was introduced by a recorded poem, spoken by its author and inspired by the horticultural theme.

“I’d like to add a couple more layers to the experience so when the students are working in class for a piece, it’s not just about learning steps,” said Susan Kay, who adapted and directed the production. “They are dealing with a little bit of a story line and that involves some thought and more acting.” (On the same theme, a fashion show and poetry slam is coming the the Downtown Community Center on June 13, and there will be a screening of student films on June 12.)

Annually for the past seven years, Manhattan Youth has staged two big productions directed by Kay, with costumes by Constance Tarbox. Now with nearly 250 dancers, the shows have grown so large that for the first time two different performances were staged on Saturday. The first by students from P.S. 89, P.S. 397, P.S. 343 and P.S. 225 and the second (shown in the video excerpts above) from programs in P.S. 234, P.S. 150, P.S. 276 and the Downtown Community Center.

In introducing the show to the audience, Theseus Roche, Manhattan Youth’s after-school director, noted that “The Secret Life of Plants,” as a book and documentary, dealt with the questionable theory that there is an emotional connection between plants and people. The after-school production, he said, was about our emotional connection to the environment.

“And that’s never seemed more relevant than this week,” he added, a reference to President Trumps stated withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. The audience erupted with some of the biggest applause of the afternoon.

Here is one of the poems from the show.

“If You Were A Flower”

To be a flower would be amazng

Oxygen would be your gift to

The world

To be a flower is survival for the human race

Standing beautiful and sparkling

In the sunlight

And if I was a flower, I’d live life, beautifully

— Valentina Smith, 4th grade, P.S. 234