Model: Jonathan Ronen
Growing up is not an easy thing to do. Our bodies seem to develop however they want without any conscious input from us. It can be a challenge to make friends and figure out just where we fit in. We may experience certain feelings that we simply can’t explain. And it can be difficult living up to the expectations of the people we love
But the key to maneuvering through life is to face our personal issues head on and embrace who we really are – though that can be more difficult during our teen years.
So as a dance instructor and founder of Man In Motion, Jason Warley came up with the idea to help kids and teens celebrate their true selves – and to do it in a way that he knows best…by showcasing the incredible talents of young dancers.
As a result, Man In Motion is releasing a brand new dance video designed primarily to inspire kids who are dealing with personal issues that are affecting their self-image and overall confidence.
Jason chose to use the song “This Is Me” after seeing the movie “The Greatest Showman” about 19th-century circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum – and because the lyrics are so appropriate to these themes. For example…
“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down / I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out / I am brave, I am bruised / I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.”
“This Is Me” has become an anthem for the disenfranchised, the bullied, and the outcast. During a subplot of the movie, the song is performed by the circus’s Bearded Lady, who finds a sense of power and pride by owning her identity.
“I thought the idea of celebrating one’s self, flaws and all, was a powerful message to share,” said Jason, also the video's producer, “so I immediately called Drew James (one of the directors and choreographers) and said, ‘Look, we have to do this. " See full video below
Directors/Choreographers, Jon Merced and Drew James on set for "This Is Me" video.
And from there, the video project took off. Auditions were full to capacity with a waiting list of more than 150 young dancers throughout New York City’s Tri-state area - and beyond - wanting to participate.
“After scouting locations in New York City and creating the choreography (with Jon Merced), I didn’t know if we were going to have a turnout,” Drew remembered. “But Jason informed us of how many kids were signing up; I was so excited for the auditions to happen. I was thrilled to see all of those dancers in the holding room - and the excitement on their faces made my heart smile. I knew right then that this project was going to be successful - and choosing dancers that evoked passion was so important to me.”
Once the dancers were chosen, rehearsals began and Drew said he felt like he was “riding a wave.” He said every step of the process flowed so well and seamlessly from beginning to end.
The video introduces us to five teenage boys, each with their own personal issues, like body image, sexual identity, just fitting in, living up to the expectations of others, or a general lack of confidence.
“The video meant a lot to me because every day, I deal with the thing that makes me different from most boys my age - I have chosen to dance,” said Justin, age 13, and the primary lead in the video. “Dance is at the center of all of this. While it’s the reason I have had some conflicts, it’s also the thing that allows me to express who I am and everything I feel inside. And it’s also given me such amazing opportunities that have impressed some of these same kids - and many now see what I do as cool.”
Zach,17, one of the other male leads, says he struggles with the way his body looks and with staying fit. “I think being a part of this video, especially being a principle, has made me really think about myself and the way I look. Every word of the song means so much to me. Being in this video also has changed the way I look at others and has taught me to not think anything bad about other people - because who really knows what problems they are going through in their lives.”
Another one of the male leads, Jonathan, age 10, said he feels skinny and that he is trying to gain weight and muscle by eating food high in protein. Jonathan believes that participating in this video project caused him to think differently about himself.
“I learned that it sometimes doesn't matter if you are skinny or not, because people can find something good about you. For example, during my improvisation at the park in the school when we were shooting the video, other dancers complimented my moves, which lifted my confidence. Before it was my turn, I was looking around at the other dancers and thinking, ‘Would I look too small, too thin?’ But instead, it didn't matter. We were there just to have fun dancing and to tell a story.”
EDITOR’S NOTE – Jonathan’s mother told us that this has been an amazing experience for him. She said his personal growth was “exponential in just a matter of days.”
After learning the boys’ stories, the video transitions into choreography to “This Is Me” performed by the five boys and the full cast of 31 dancers from 10-18 years old and set in those locations throughout New York City.
Cast of 31 dancers on the final day of shooting the "This Is Me" video.
“The ‘This is Me’ video definitely made me think about how I view myself and others,” said Anna, age 15. “The song has a beautiful meaning - and the choreography elevated the theme and made it even more inspiring. Coming together with a group of kids who were all different but so accepting made me more than happy. I realized that everyone, no matter what they look like or who they are, is beautiful in their own unique way. When I danced in this video, the energy that I felt filled my heart with happiness. After finishing this project, I learned that individuality is the most beautiful thing there is.”
“This video project has helped me to understand that I am me and no one else can be me,” said Melanie, 14. “Whoever I make of myself and however I present myself is unique and special. The song itself says, ‘I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.’ This means that every event and experience that has happened in our lives has made us special and incomparable to anyone else.”
According to Jon Merced, co-director and choreographer, he and Drew locked themselves in the studio for hours and created every movement from scratch - and they were very particular in the choices for each section. He said it’s important to be as detailed as possible with movement, especially when sticking to a plot.
“I was so impressed with the kids on their ability to really focus and get into character as quickly as they did,” Jon said. “We explained that they would have to digest a lot of choreography in a short amount of time and they really came hungry and ready to go. It’s always amazing to me to see kids at any age fight and work hard for something they really want. I was always working as hard as I could - and seeing young people with that same drive helps inspire and push me to be even better than what I am.”
“Through the creative medium of this dance video, I would like to change the way kids and teens feel and think about themselves,” said Jason. “Even if that change only lasts for the length of this six-minute video, then I really feel like we have accomplished something.”
NOTE – If you like the “This Is Me” dance video and the messages of courage and self-acceptance that it conveys, Man In Motion and everyone involved in this project would like to encourage you to share the video on your social media accounts and anywhere else and with anyone else you choose.
PRESS: Jerry Buchs | firstname.lastname@example.org
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