Neighborhood Studios Q&A: Hartford Stage – Breakdancing Shakespeare


It’s not often that a performance makes us want to get up and dance, but when the Breakdancing Shakespeare apprentices of Neighborhood Studios are on stage, it’s hard to resist the urge to do arm waves and hand glides. The talented cohort of fifteen teenagers across the Greater Hartford region combine breakdancing and acting for a unique performance based on Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. There’s something to be said about the passion, confidence, and support these apprentices show for each other, and the communal art form of breakdancing may have something to do with it. We sat down with master teaching artist, Nina Pinchin of Hartford Stage to get the scoop on the popular program.

Mark your calendar for their showcase at the University of Saint Joseph between August 11 – 13. You won’t want to miss this inspiring performance!

What are the goals for Breakdancing Shakespeare this summer?

We set out to tell a difficult story well, to create a diverse ensemble of talented young people, and to find the “funny” in the text and the “WOW” in the dance!

What’s an average day like at the studio?

Apprentices usually dance in the morning and have a rehearsal including text in the afternoon.  Each week also includes master classes – this summer master classes included: Commedia Del’Arte (classical Italian style of street theater), Voice, Mask, and Popping/Locking.

What about working with students in the Greater Hartford region inspires you?

I am always impressed not only by the talent of the young people this program brings in.  But also by their ability to connect, their professionalism, and their ownership over the work they do.  Some of the most collaborative artistic colleagues I have worked with in my career have come through this apprenticeship program.

How do you see the exploration of an artistic discipline as well as career skills impacting the way these students might look towards the future?

Through the years of participating in this program we have heard over and over again that it was a key element in inspiring young people to reach higher and dream bigger. Many former apprentices mention the work they did with the Neighborhood Studios program as important in their journey to college and beyond.

What did past students take away from the program and how does that experience differ from a traditional art class?

The intensive summers working towards a production for six weeks creates friendships and a lasting artistic community diverse in age, geography, heritage, and types of talent. The bonds apprentices create over each summer with Neighborhood Studios serve them well for years to come.