Maiysha Cade has worked with TPP on three original musicals as well as our recent film project. We asked her to tell us about her role within this program and her motivation for working with our youth…
TPP: Describe your background and current work as an artist.
MC: Dance has been my life forever. I started with Boston Ballets Citydance Program at 8 years old. As a teenager, I fell in love with hip hop and later joined a dance company, named Phunk Phenomenon, where I taught dance classes, toured performing shows along the east coast, performed for numerous charity events and met amazing dancers from around the world. While living in Boston I was also an NBA Boston Celtics Dancer. After moving to New York I’ve had such amazing opportunities in dance…TPP being one of them! Outside of TPP I also work for SOCAPA (School of Creative and Performing Arts) as a dance instructor and I continue to pursue my professional dance career.
Describe your role within The Possibility Project.
MC: As a choreographer, my role within TPP extends way beyond dance and teaching choreography. I am a big sister to a teen who needs advice about what shoes to wear to prom. I am a confidant to a teen who needs to vent and trusts me to listen. I am a motivator…always encouraging my kids to go for it and give their all in life and in performing. I am a friend for someone needs a shoulder to lean on. Although I’m a teacher, often times I’m the student being taught lessons by my teens in patience, will, determination, love, strength….
Why were you interested in working with The Possibility Project in the beginning?
MC: As a freelance artist I am always looking for gigs. A friend of mine, Jamilia Hall, contacted me about interviewing for TPP where she was working as a choreographer. After researching the organization, I knew this was something I had to be a part of. I had to interview with the teens in the program and I had never been so nervous. I remember saying to them “Even if I’m not chosen as a dance director, you will see me because I will be working with the program somehow, someway.”
I am a huge advocate of expression through art. I love teaching. I love helping others. I love spreading awareness on topics that need light shined on them. I love working with like minded individuals and TPP embodies all of this and more.
Why have you continued to use your talents with TPP now?
MC: I believe that TPP honestly makes a difference for every teen who walks through the door and I am proud to be a part of that. There will always be a teen in need of an outlet… a teen in need of someone to believe in them and teach them how to believe in themselves… a teen in need of having their fears, loves, opinions and their stories heard and respected… a teen who wants to make a difference in their life and someone else’s. As long as I’m able, I will continue to work with them, to help give them the skills they need to create change in themselves and others through their shows.
What is different or unique about TPP that makes it worthwhile for you?
MC: Being a part of TPP is the most rewarding work I have ever done. I am working a job I love. I am sharing my passion of dance with others. And in that, I am creating change? Yes, changing people’s lives… one teen at a time, one crowd at a time. Seriously, it doesn’t get any better than that. I work with amazing adults who believe in these young people – who are building our youth up and not tearing them down. TPP is such an honest place….there is no sugar-coating issues. Life is scary… the world is scary and not always a pretty place. We address that head on instead of tip-toeing around it.
What impact do you aim to make with the teenagers you work with in TPP?
MC: I believe dance builds self confidence. In order to dance – really dance – you have to be present in the moment…you have to let go of all self doubt and just go for it…move and be free. I hope, through dance and movement, to help build confidence in my teens and help shed insecurities! I hope to instill in them the ability to dance without the fear of making a mistake and understanding that if one is made that it’s not a bad thing. It’s just a chance to go at it again until you get it right – a chance to right your wrongs. I hope that my teens can take these same lessons in dance and apply them in their life… always be present in the moment, have confidence, make mistakes, learn from them, shed insecurities, etc.
What is the biggest challenge you face in working with teenagers in TPP?
MC: Our teens aren’t chosen on the basis of talent so in the beginning I am working with some who have never attempted to dance and, for them, that can be terrifying. The challenge isn’t so much in teaching someone who has never danced before, the challenge more so lies in creating a comfortable learning atmosphere where their fears can be eased, mistakes can be made, there is no judgment, and confidence can be built – an atmosphere they can trust and let their guards down. That can be incredibly difficult in the beginning, when trust is being built between the cast and between the staff and the cast. In time, it is always rewarding to see when it clicks for the cast…when they realize we are all in this together…we are all here to make a change and the show they are building can do that. When they realize they are here for something bigger than themselves and that’s way more important than being scared to dance, or sing, or speak in front of an audience. There is something magical in seeing a person push through their fears in hopes of creating change for themselves and others.
Why do you choose to use your time/talents to create change? Where does that motivation come from?
MC: As a teen, I couldn’t begin to realize how big of an impact certain adults would have on my life. They were the teachers who believed in me and taught me to believe in myself….who told me I could be anything I wanted to be and honestly believed that I could be. Teachers who helped me hone my talents as a dancer and pushed me to be better. It may all sound so cliché but it motivated me. It motivated me to do the same, to believe in someone else. To help them to become all they can be in hopes that they will help others one day as well. I stayed with dance because in my most influential years no one ever said I shouldn’t. I want to motivate the teens I work with to have faith in the things they love and are passionate about and be able to live life making a living doing what makes them happy.
What is the best part of working with teenagers in TPP? What do you get out of it, personally?
MC: The teens at TPP have inspired me to do better, to be better. My teens, without even knowing, have had a major impact on my life for the better. I no longer sweat the small stuff. They’ve helped to re-ignite my urge to create change…in myself and for others. They simply make me happy. I may be having a bad day….a bad month for that matter but they honestly have the ability to lift me up and make me smile. They push me to be better because I have to deliver. I have no choice. They keep me grounded. They keep me real and honest. They motivate me and they amaze me. I am so grateful to have them in my life.