Performing Saturday, Oct. 19,
Forest Street Harvest Festival
In front of Montclair Cooperative School
Open House, Sunday, Sept. 20, 5-7:30 p.m.
Montclair Cooperative School (Annex), 65 Chestnut St., entrance on Forest
By GWEN OREL
Something special happens when children beat drums in a circle.
Regardless of the size of the child, even little children who can barely sit at a big Djembe drum, children share a connection, says Maya Milenovic Workman, founder and artistic director of MADLOM, the Montclair Academy of Dance and Laboratory of Music and Drama.
“There is no difference with somebody sitting next to you: we are all the same,” she says. “In the drum circle, children feel a true connection with one another.”
The Montclair Academy of Dance was established in 1960. Then in 1998, Workman and jazz bassist Reggie Workman brought in music and theater and established MADLOM.
MADLOM will perform a demonstration at the Forest Street Harvest Festival on Saturday, Oct. 19, and is holding an open house on Sunday, Oct. 20.
The organization’s mission is to creative development through dance, drumming, spoken word and theater. Over the years, some of MADLOM’s students have gone on to become professionals in theater and music. The organization’s mission stresses process as much as product. Their website states: “Work at MADLOM surpasses intellectual illusion of what art has been or might be. We create with joy and we are free.”
Maya Workman’s play “Ophelia” is about to have a reading in a New York theater, and will be produced next year.
MADLOM offers 12 classes for children aged 4 to 17, including improvisation, storytelling, modern dance, ballet, movement and physical theater. The writing element is unusual, but integral: student testimonials on MADLOM.org describe work done around original poems, dancing and writing.
Maya Workman is a choreographer, dancer and actress from Slovenia, who came to America in 1983, after studying dance, theater and visual art in Europe, in order to study with iconic dancer Merce Cunninham, and perform with live jazz musicians.
“I started working in physical theater in New York,” she explains. She describes “physical theater” as “regular theater plus a lot of physicality.”
That’s appealing to children, who love to move around a lot.
Ongoing creativity, so that children are constantly discovering, is a focus of the classes, she says.
The music part of the curriculum is drumming: Djembe drumming and Dun Dun drumming. M’ten Halsey teaches the African drums.
“It is the most beautiful thing when you see these young people bringing their enthusiasm and energy,” Maya Workman says. “We never push anything. Everything is done naturally and organically. You can see them smile and enjoy.
“I have been noticing in the past 15 years, a lot of New Jersey communities have been bringing these drums out. There’s something very specific in the vibration, you can feel somebody else equally.”
Drumming is very kid-friendly, she says, and it has a comfort level for children with special needs.
About 30 families will participate in the festival on Saturday. The dancers will be older students, but the drummers will be all ages. Workman will also teach workshops in movement. It’s the third year of this annual celebration of the fall, produced by the Montclair Cooperative school. Other local parents will give workshops as well. The festival, she says, “brings the entire community together.”