C o m m u n i t y

Joe Orrach formed the Joe Orrach Performance Project ("JOPP"), a not-for-profit organization, to give structure and support his community outreach activities in the public schools and with at-risk youth and adults. For many years, Joe has combined dance and performance with community programs in an effort to inspire youth in the joys and discipline of physical activity, rhythm and expression through performance and dance. Joe involves youth in the creation of new performance pieces, giving them the opportunity to see how personal stories and creative ideas can be expressed and performed in a way that encourages participations and self-confidence.

The Mission of JOPP is the development and incubation of new performing arts productions combining dance, movement and story through community outreach and the active involvement of youth and disadvantage student groups in the development of performing arts projects. IN MY CORNER is a lively JOPP embodiment of Joe Orrach's creative work in outreach projects for schools and community organizations. DancersGroup provides Joe Orrach and JOPP with fiscal sponsorship.

The source of Joe Orrach's passion for working with youth can be found in his personal story. Joe grew up with dance in a Latin household in the Bronx, but he first discovered dance as a discipline and an art at age 15 when his boxing trainer advised him to take ballet to perfect his footwork. Boxing was deep in Joe's Puerto Rican father's heritage. When he gave up boxing, after becoming the US Air Force welterweight champ, it was ballet that gave Joe a community, culture, inspiration and a sense of purpose. His life's mentor was a NYC ballet instructor, Carl Sandemar, who helped him understand ballet as an art form. Joe turned his dancing skills and discipline to tap; Gregory Hines found him dancing in a duo on the streets in NY and helped him start a career as a professional dancer in 1985. For Joe, dance was a way out of an unhealthy life that was dominated largely by violence and into a structure and inspiration that allowed his inner voice to emerge. Beginning in the early '90's, Joe Orrach taught dance and movement in the Passaic, New Jersey School District where he designed a program to give each student a chance to experience self-improvement and recognize internal resources in dance; it was cited and videoed as exemplary by President Clinton's Assistant Secretary for Education. Over the years, Orrach has brought his own teaching style and programs to inner city schools and youth programs in Manhattan, the Bronx, northern New Jersey, San Francisco and Oakland. At the same time, he has had the opportunity to work and learn with such artists as Graciela Danielle, Vladimir Dokoudovski, Wayne Cilento, Gregory Hines, Ted Levy, Savion Glover, Mercedes Ellington, Noel Parenti, David Shiner and Bill Irwin, and brings what he has learned from these teachers and colleagues to his own teaching, movement and performing.

Recently, Joe and some of the artists working with him on the IN MY CORNER productions realized that his outreach activities over the past 2 years had impact on over 2000 students, mostly "at-risk" youth. It became clear that with an organization and support, the impact would be greater. With JOPP, Joe has an organization involving other artists and educators and support to help him develop projects and demonstrate to youths and the public how dance and physical performance enhance self-expression and help to create an integrated self.

Current activities show how development of a new production is combined with community outreach events.

IN MY CORNER is a developing narrative work and project. The piece has been presented in high schools where students assist with production activities such as lighting, sound, organizing the production space and staging. They are actively engaged in q 'n a's, critique and classroom sessions about how the work is developed and how a personal story becomes a piece that can be expressed in movement and narrative for an audience. They do physical exercise using dance and movement to experience how the artist translated a story into dance and narrative. The response in schools has always been high enthusiasm and intense engagement.

Orrach and his group have been invited for return engagements with this evolving work, as they have with other presentations at other community facilities. For example, THE BOXER, a piece entirely in dance which Orrach originated and performed in European venues is a work he has also performed, explained and used at a spring-board for movement and discussion with teenagers in a lock-down environment and in afterschool programs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Boys and girls with different degrees of athleticism or physical abilities and energies are so engaged that the instructors have repeatedly encouraged his return.

Joe Orrach's "147" was conceived and performed in the summer of 2006 at the invitation of the Wrightsville, VA arts festival which, under the directorship of Calvin McClinton, Kent State Professor of Performing Arts, was reviving cabaret in one of the first freed slave towns in the south. This piece with one dancer and a pianist emphasizes tap as an indigenous American art form and first played to an audience aged 3-103. In further development of a fun interactive piece Joe had conceived and performed with public school students and with youth organizations about dance in stories about everyday life.

IN MY CORNER has already given thousands of Bay Area and Los Angeles area students the opportunity to learn and experience how a production develops from conception to performance, how dance and movement can tell a story, and how dance can express emotion and leave room for multiple interpretations.

As a touring production, Orrach takes the project public schools around the country and uses it as a performance occasion for follow-up discussions and workshops with students. Orrach's workshops let students experience the accessibility of art and story through dance, athletic movements and the body in motion.

In the course of developing and presenting IN MY CORNER, Joe and JOPP have conceived a variety of new projects which involve working with youth to find their personal stories through dance and movement and then to express them in those mediums. IN MY CORNER began as a personal journal,then evolved by experimenting with movement in association with a thought or memory. JOPP's new projects draw on this method. Initial discussions with interested students and some of their teachers reveal just how excited and hopeful they are about creation of performance works through this interaction of students and their stories.

Orrach is repeatedly asked to return to work at schools and community groups where he gives workshops and classes and performs. He has been able to measure positive impact in the continued enthusiasm of students, their own decisions to explore movement, dance, and dramatic experiences on their own and the progress they make and in their expressive and motor skills and in self-esteem. It is particularly rewarding and a mark of "success" when the students notice and enjoy the progress they witness in themselves. This kind of success is measured in different ways with different groups. For example, with the teenagers who live in a locked-down environment, being able to move together, to pay attention to the expressions of others and to interact in an organized fashion is a demonstration of progress. Teachers repeatedly report to Orrach that students gain self-confidence and find new forms of expression in his program and approach. JOPP expects to reach over four thousand students and many more audience members in 2011-2012 with the kinds of programs and performances described here.

Some of the youth and community organizations Joe has worked with, formally and informally, include:

Passaic New Jersey School District

Jacques D'Amboise National Dance Institute

Dance Genesis

Oakland (CA) School for the Arts

Lee Strasbourg Studio (NYC) Movement /Dance instruction

San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA)

Seven Tepees Youth Organization (San Francisco)

San Francisco County Youth Authority (lock-down environment)

Volunteer performances for various Foundations including:

The Edible Schoolyard

Delancey Street

San Francisco Bay Club Community Benefits

Heart to Heart Children's International Medical Alliance

Joe Orrach and JOPP have received support from:

Zellerbach Family Foundation

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Caroline H. Newhouse foundation for Dancers in Transition

James Irvine Foundation Production to Performance Dance

USADancersGroup (San Francisco)

Some of the artists active in JOPP are:

Matthew Clark, pianist and composer (San Francisco)

Micha Patri, percussionist (San Francisco)

Eugene Warren, bassist (Oakland)

David LaBua, psychologist and artist (San Francisco, CA)

Dariun Robinson, film director (San Francisco)

Michael Davis, comedian and director (San Francisco)

Community organization and schools may reach JOPP and IN MY CORNER for programs, performances, and related services through: