Urbanity Dance's Call of Courage

View press ready photographs here

Stories of perseverance set to dance

In the fall of 2016, Urbanity Dance partnered with the City of Boston to develop and present an original show, Call of Courage. Call of Courage aimed to elevate stories of young courage in the midst of bullying and harassment. The original performance, geared towards middle and high school students, premiered for over 1,300 enthusiastic Boston youth at the historic Strand Theater. After a positive response, Urbanity hopes to build on this momentum to affect change and expand their reach. "We heard from teachers that witnessing stories through dance affected their students in ways that lectures or books about bullying have not," says Urbanity Director Betsi Graves. "We all of a sudden had requests to bring the show to schools and community centers across Massachusetts... I realized our work on this subject wasn't over."

In the original production, eight sixth-grade authors penned and published their stories of courage through the Max Warburg Courage Curriculum. These stories offer diverse perspectives in bullying: the bully, the bullied, the upstander, and the family. The excerpted collection of experiences, narrated by the young authors, and sculpted by composer Ryan Edwards, were interwoven into a 45-minute performance. The resulting music and choreography makes for a truly unique viewing experience, honoring personal truths of growing up in today's society. Urbanity Dancers build on this extraordinary soundscore to create visually arresting images, playing with power structures rooted in social interaction. The goal is to celebrate and encourage voices of courage, empowerment, and peer intervention. "We want to elevate upstander behavior, students who stand up against cruel behavior," says Graves.

Community Conversations After performing Call of Courage, and hearing from students, parents, and teachers in the Boston community, Urbanity believes that more should and could be done to investigate how we can best support our youth. We feel bullying is not simply the responsibility of schools, but that it's a community issue, and needs a community solution. Teachers, parents, community leaders, law enforcement, doctors, counselors, aunts, uncles, neighbors, coaches... what we can do as a community to better support our youth, especially in the face of a rising climate of fear and hate. How can we model a culture of compassion, kindness, and respect?

Urbanity is in the early stages of planning a community discussion on this topic. If you would like to learn more, bring Call of Courage to your school, or be a part of the ongoing development process, please contact us at betsi@urbanitydance.org or 617-572-3727.


What are people saying about Call of Courage?

I wanted to express my gratitude in being able to take my students on such a unique and powerful field trip! Some of them had a difficult time coming up with even the transportation funds, so your generous donation of tickets to our large audience is so immensely appreciated! The work your company is doing is great.
The dancers were terrific, and the themes really came through. This was one of the better set up productions for school groups I have been to.
— Avery Saulnier de Reyes, Frederick Pilot School, Teacher
My students loved the performance and could not stop talking about it - it was so nice to watch a performance that the students could relate to
— -Soto Applegate, Mildred Ave, Teacher
The dancers were beautiful and I loved hearing the chatter on the bus about the performance. One fifth grade boy entered the bus room at dismissal and said, “Thank you for taking us. That was a great show”... If you knew this boy, you would have never expected those words to come out of his mouth. He’s the cool athletic boy that all the girls are crushing on. Well apparently in his seat at the show next to his teacher, he leaned over during the beginning and said, “I’d be doing that weird jump with him.” I love that the piece sparked curiosity and made them think a little deeper about the message being sent.
— Kaitlyn Edwards, Brooke Charter Schools

Excerpts from Call of Courage (1 minute reel):

Excerpts from Call of Courage (5 minute reel):

Call of Courage Trailer:


Press Links:

PBS: WGBH November 18th, 2016 Open Studios with Jared Bowen 

NPR : WBGH Radio November November 17th, 2016 Arts This Week: Vision and Justice, Call of Courage, Fantastic Beasts, Nocturnal Animals

Boston Magazine November, 2016 Seven Can't Miss Events in Boston


Inside the Making of Call of Courage:

Meet the students whose stories inspired this show

"Starting that moment, I began to rebuild myself, to climb out of the pit of exclusion and discrimination and rise up in hope. I would prove that I am a real person too, in spite of their narrow minds, minds that allowed nothing different."

                -Liana Joy

View all eight student essays here.  

View pre-performance lesson plans for teachers here. 

(Post-performance lesson plans, and plans for all ages/grades are available upon request.)

In the recording studio, author Liana Joy reads her essay as composer Ryan Edwards records, and later mixes into the Call of Courage sound composition.

In the recording studio, author Liana Joy reads her essay as composer Ryan Edwards records, and later mixes into the Call of Courage sound composition.


About Urbanity Dance

Urbanity Dance is the largest contemporary dance company in Boston. As a nonprofit committed to local growth, Urbanity is working alongside Boston communities to bring imaginative performances that showcase Boston’s diverse voices and create dialogue for social change. This year, Urbanity is collaborating with organizations such as the City of Boston, Young Audiences, Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion, Museum of Fine Arts, Institute of Contemporary Art, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Children’s Museum to highlight the performing arts as a social platform to empower.

Known for its effortless curves and use of breath, Urbanity places a strong emphasis on the foundations of modern, jazz, and ballet, while utilizing the highly detailed gesture work and hard-hitting articulation usually associated with hip-hop. This hyper-athletic fusion creates a unique all-encompassing visual experience. The Company was announced Best of Boston by Boston Magazine in 2015, Boston’s Best by the Improper Bostonian in 2013, recently shortlisted for Bostinno’s 50 on Fire, and named a Top Ten Critics’ Pick by The Boston Globe. Urbanity has presented at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, The Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and shown works by Pilobolus, Larry Keigwin, Carl Flink, and Andy Noble. Utilizing its’ public platform and unique hybrid of styles, Urbanity Dance exists to engage, inspire, and empower individuals and communities through the art of dance and movement.

About The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum

Founded in 1991, The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum honors the life of Max Warburg, a courageous sixth-grader whose determination and hope in the face of his battle with leukemia inspired friends, family, and strangers alike. Feeling that Max’s story could be a catalyst for other children, his parents, Stephanie and Jonathan Warburg, worked with the Boston Public Schools and educators around the country to develop The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum. The curriculum is a yearlong English Language Arts program implemented in sixth grade classrooms in the Boston Public, parochial, and charter schools, 28 states, and 12 foreign countries, with new schools adding the curriculum each year. For 26 years, The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum has helped children find their voice by finding their courage.

For more information about the curriculum or the contest, please visit www.maxcourage.org

Call of Courage Creative Team

Betsi Graves
Ryan Edwards
Carl Flink
John Bohannon
Urbanity Dancers
The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum

Call of Courage is made possible by the City of Boston, and through the generous contributions of Anmol Mehra and the James Spriggs Fidelity Charitable Trust.

View Call of Courage lesson plans here.