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THE DANCE ENTHUSIAST ASKS: Yvonne H. Chow of The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory On Why You Should Attend Doorstep DanceMart

THE DANCE ENTHUSIAST ASKS: Yvonne H. Chow of The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory On Why You Should Attend Doorstep DanceMart

Published on September 23, 2021
Yvonne H. Chow. Photo courtesy of AK47 Division.

Save The Date For September 25th: NYC Dancers Can Get Free Groceries, Menstrual Products, Footwear, Food & More

H+ | Doorstep DanceMart, New York City's premiere grocery supplement program for dancers, returns to the DUMBO Archway on Saturday, September 25, 2021 from 2pm to 6pm. 

Interviewee Yvonne H. Chow is the Director of Operations & Education Director of non-profit organization H+ | The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory, Founder of the House of Chow, and a curator and principal dancer with Theatre Of ThE Mind (TOTEM).

Yvonne H. Chow poses in front of a pyramid of canned food in the center of a supermarket aisle. Photo courtesy of AK47 Division.

Sammi Sowerby for The Dance Enthusiast: Born of empathy and fuelled by activation, H+ | Doorstep DanceMart has been hosted by The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory for how long now? 

Yvonne H. Chow: H+ | Doorstep DanceMart® rides off the coattails of our premiere grocery-supplementation program, H+ | DanceMart. DanceMart was founded by H+ | Founder Safi A. Thomas in 2015 and we have hosted the program every month for 5+ years until COVID-19 hit. The evolution of H+ | DanceMart to H+ | Doorstep DanceMart was sparked by the global pandemic and the subsequent industry shutdown that left most professional dancers unemployed for over 1.5 years. 

The Dance Enthusiast: In a nutshell, and correct me if I’m wrong, the H+ | Doorstep DanceMart program provides free food and other necessities to struggling artists, especially those from the dance community, so they can dedicate time to their craft that would otherwise be spent fretting over basic needs. What galvanised H+? 

Yvonne H. Chow: Exactly! As our tagline “We do groceries. You dance.” suggests, we wanted to alleviate dancers from constantly worrying over their basic needs like groceries, menstrual products, toiletries, et cetera and make space for them to work on advancing their careers. 

What galvanized H+ is simple: Care for our community. We are dancers and we care about supporting our dance community towards success. While programs do exist that provide general resource support, there have been no organizations that have accomplished what we have at this scale and with this level of precision towards our diverse and multifaceted community. The visionary behind DanceMart, Safi Thomas, felt that dancers providing social services to dancers  is the most impactful. We understand the kinds of struggles we go through, and ways we want to be approached surrounding the idea of support. It’s about destigmatizing the feelings of shame or guilt surrounding receiving help and normalizing our responsibility to strengthen community from within. 

Safi A. Thomas, who is wearing a bright red t-shirt, is stood in front of a DJ console table. Photo copyright of The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory.

The Dance Enthusiast: Had you and Artistic Director Safi Thomas done anything like this prior? Fundraising is a whole different animal.

Yvonne H. Chow: H+ | DanceMart was certainly our first foray into the world of eradicating food insecurity on a consistent basis. However, since our inception over 30 years ago as a community-based organization in Harlem, H+ has been about more than just building dancers — we are about building leaders in dance who work towards sustainable change. The first generation of youth members were not only the first batch of professional dancers who trained under our technique, but also leading voices for teen violence, domestic abuse, HIV/AIDS, drug/alcohol addiction, and more. The work of caring for the dance community has always been at the forefront of our mission, and if anything, it has only evolved and expanded throughout our decades of service!

The Dance Enthusiast: Is the Dumbo Archway pretty much the default location for your events?

Yvonne H. Chow: No, actually! Prior to COVID-19, we were running our multiple services out of midtown Manhattan to centralize access for NYC dancers from all boroughs. However, given the COVID-19 safety protocol required for events, we needed a location outdoors that would feel inspiring, larger than life, and just celebratory, after so long in quarantine. We wanted to give dancers a new and refreshing experience after the mental and emotional toll this pandemic has taken on everyone. Thanks to Dumbo BID, that was possible! 

The Dance Enthusiast: Saturday, September 25th marks the first Doorstep DanceMart of the Fall season. What will the Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory do when the days start to get colder?

Yvonne H. Chow: Adaptation is our key guiding principle in the ambiguity and unpredictability of the coronavirus! Given that NYC has implemented the vaccination mandate for various indoor activities and there are varying vaccination levels in our community, we are looking to create an experience that accommodates everyone to ensure that all NYC dancers are serviced regardless. Stay tuned for more exciting news to come for our H+ | Doorstep DanceMart {Thanksgiving Edition}!    


The Dance Enthusiast: Live performances enliven each H+ | Doorstep DanceMart. What’s on schedule for the September 25th session?

Yvonne H. Chow: The party lies at the heart of any DanceMart® experience. Ciphering, freestyling, grooving, and moving to live DJ sounds from our very own Founder & Artistic Director, Safi Thomas, is central to our curated experience. He has been developing a unique vibe and sound quality that really speaks to the diverse crowd that comes to our events with dancers from all genres and musical inclinations. 

For the September 25th session, we’ll start off with sounds from him, and then we’ll transition over to the father and son duo, St. James Joy! In between, we’ll have a demo by Beatbox Lifestylers that dancers can partake in!

The Dance Enthusiast: Would you like to give a shoutout to your sponsors and explain how each organization makes Doorstep DanceMart possible?

Yvonne H. Chow: We'd love to shout out some of our sponsors! There are way too many to name and we’re so thankful for the outpour of support that everyone has provided during these really turbulent times.

One of our biggest partners behind the scenes is Haitian American Caucus. They have been instrumental in supporting us on an operational and fundraising scale. Stand for the Arts has been another incredible organization that has worked with us to address the challenges that small arts organizations face during the global pandemic. As a coalition member, we had the honor of receiving a PSA surrounding Doorstep DanceMart that aired on Ovation TV!

In terms of the event itself, Target has come through with dry goods, meat alternatives, breads, and cereals for the grocery station as well as an amazing volunteer fleet! Trader Joes is back with us and supplying major essentials for dancers' dietary needs. And PERIOD Movement has been an essential part of our ability to address period poverty with menstrual cups, pads, and organic tampons! 

Red neon signage that spells out "Eat what makes you happy." Photo courtesy of Doorstep DanceMart®.

The Dance Enthusiast: Are reservations absolutely required to attend Doorstep DanceMart? Or are walk-ins allowed?

Yvonne H. Chow: Reservations are not required, but highly-encouraged! To register for Doorstep DanceMart this Saturday, September 25th from 2 to 6pm, click here! Walk-ins are definitely welcome and the same registration process will be required, just at the door. 

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