Parents are scrambling to find ways to keep kids entertained this summer. There are limited family-friendly outings available these next couple of months. Definitely no festivals happening that have always been part of our city’s buzz. And camps? Yeah, they aren’t happening either. Soooo, now what? Families need to be a little more creative following the months of staying within our non-social bubbles. Keeping kids stimulated with a combination of fun and learning is ideal. TO LIVE, one of Canada’s largest multi-arts organizations, has launched THE ARTS SQUAD — a free digital content arts series designed for families with children.
The series provides a fun and creative way to explore a variety of performing arts. Each episode of The Arts Squad will focus on a different artistic discipline: music, theatre, storytelling, dance, and comic arts; with each discipline taught by a different artist. The participating artists are actor and director Herbie Barnes (theatre); choreographer and dancer Edz Gyamfi (dance); comic book illustrator Kean Soo (comics); writer/storyteller Nathalie Vachon (storytelling); and actor, singer, and conductor Tahirih Vejdani (music).
The series launched on June 22 with five episodes already in place. Each episode lasts between 8 to 15 minutes in duration with easy to follow instructions. New content will be added each Monday to the existing series. The episodes will continue to be available online so kids, families and caregivers can explore them at their own pace. Visit the site www.tolive.com/kids to watch the current episodes now.
We were happy to learn that Edz Gyamfi, a Ghanaian-Canadian dance choreographer from Ottawa, was on the roster. Edz was exposed to various music genres throughout his life, but his dance foundation is in Hip Hop, Dance Hall and Reggae. Edz has been competing, teaching, and choreographing for over 10 years and is known for incorporating a range of dance styles to clients of all ages. He’s also worked on various music videos.
While watching Edz Gyamfi first dance episode with TO LIVE The Arts Squad, we admit to getting off the couch and got grooving right with him! Yes, we learned a few new dance moves that we’ll have to incorporate into our next family TikTok clip. We had a chance to chat with Edz to find out more about his love for dance and how to keep kids learning and engaged while having fun.
Do you remember when you were introduced to the world of dance?
Edz: I was introduced to the world of dance at a very early age with my two older brothers, Bismark and Maxwell. We were always dancing in the living room and at Ghanaian ‘Outdoorings’ (community gatherings). I always enjoyed dancing as a kid especially when watching various music videos such as MC Hammers music video “Can’t Touch This”, Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and Maestro Fresh Wes “Let your Back Bone Slide” to name a few. I also grew up watching THE ICONIC movie called “Breakin” starring Shabba Doo and Boogaloo Shrimp Chambers. Those influenced me at a young age which connected and carried through after High School. That’s when I actually started to dance and eventually developed a passion for the art form.”
Having danced most of your life, what would you want parents to know about the art form?
Edz: I’d want parents to know that dance “is like a box of chocolates, you just never know what you’re going to get”. Just made a Forrest Gump reference but seriously, dance as an art form is filled with so many great elements. Aside from dance keeping you fit and active, it has also been a huge source of therapy and a guide to unlocking many things from within. Dance as an art form has enabled me to dig deep spiritually, mentally and emotionally. It has made me appreciate music, movements, dance disciplines and cultures from all over the world.
You’ve taught all ages, what’s fun about teaching kids?
Edz: Out of all ages that I’ve taught in the span of my career, I’d say that kids are the most fun and energetic to teach. I find that music hits them completely different from the other age groups. It could very well be that they’re at their purest during those ages and aren’t caged or pressed down by what society expects them to be. There’s a sense of liberation and freedom whenever they’re being taught and dancing, which is really amazing and empowering to witness.
What tips do you have for parents who are introducing their kids to dance?
Edz: I would advise parents to do their research before enlisting their kids in dance. The reason being is that dance can be an expensive venture to get into and as a parent, you’d not only want your kids to have fun but also learn something along the way. Parents should do the following when landing on a studio: Checking out their Credibility. Checking out FACULTY (IS A MUST)
Making sure that each faculty member has a resume that backs up the style of dance that they specialize in. The key is that these instructors should be knowledgeable about what they’re teaching, just like any other profession.
Doing that homework as a parent will ensure that you’re getting the bang for your hard-earned bucks. DANCE AIN’T CHEAP!!!
In the meantime, young kids and their families can have fun learning simple dance steps with Edz and TO LIVE The Arts Squad right from their own living rooms this summer.
Here’s a quick link to his episode:
TO Live is one of Canada’s largest multi-arts organizations, operating three iconic venues: Meridian Hall, the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts and Meridian Arts Centre. In addition, TO Live presents a full range of performing arts, theatrical and concert events at these venues in both downtown and uptown Toronto. TO Live continues to inspire local and international artists, connect audiences and reflects on Toronto’s range and diversity.