Kay-Huang Barnes

In this new blog series, Inside our Community Programs, we interview Arts Umbrella instructors who work in our Donor-Funded Community Programs. For many children, Arts Umbrella is their first experience with the world of art. Our Donor-Funded Community Programs harness Arts Umbrella magic and expertise, bringing free-of-charge, high-quality arts classes to Metro Vancouver’s underserved youth. To learn more about Arts Umbrella’s Community Programs, click here. Enjoy the first blog in this series as we interview Creative Dance Instructor, Kay Huang Barnes.

Meet Kay Huang Barnes (she/her), an Asian choreographer, educator, and dance artist living in Vancouver. Kay has danced professionally, had her choreography featured in performances in Europe and North America, is a faculty member at the University of British Columbia, and is the founder of Crossmaneuver and VDCM Dance Collective.

Kay has been working with Arts Umbrella for 26 years. Her journey with the organization began with our Dance and Early Learning programs, which she taught for 9 years before beginning to assist with the development of the first dance classes within Community Programs.

What Community Programs are you currently a part of?

“I am involved with the Headstart Creative Dance program at Crabtree Corner YWCA and Eagles in the Sky Daycare, Artistic Flair at Kiwassa Neighbourhood House, the after-school ASSAI Dance Program with the Vancouver School Board and Dance It Out at Henderson Elementary. With Dance It Out, I have been a part of that program for 10 years now. It’s during school hours for youth in grades 1 and 4. It’s 8 weeks long, and we have a great relationship with the school teachers. This is one of my favourite Community Programs because of that. It’s a bigger school so we have more resources and the program is built into the curriculum which is a huge success!”

What drew you to Dance as a discipline, and why is it valuable to teach to youth?

“Dance allows people to access something within themselves; it provides young people with important tools for gaining self-awareness and confidence. Dance allows my students to sense things through their bodies, connect to their hearts, and understand physical cues. Dance is accessible to everyone.”

Can you talk about some of the challenges you face while instructing?

“Going into the unknown. There is such a big difference between each Community Program such as the location of the program, the ages of the students, and the culture of the communities. Sometimes I don’t teach dance; we play games to help understand why we dance, or just learning how to connect with music and movement.”

What about successes? What does success look like for you and your students?

“There are so many successes like students overcoming barriers, being seen, and being able to be present. I see kids starting to become comfortable moving and connecting to their bodies in different ways. I am always meeting such talented young people who are naturally connected to movement; it’s just who they are! I think the biggest success is how I can help others to find emotional safety. Kids then learn how to listen to themselves and how to express themselves.

What are your future aspirations for the Community Programs at Arts Umbrella and the youth they reach?

“I love to help develop more Community Programs as there is a great need for them and dance is just so accessible, all you need is music! I’d like to see these programs continue to grow in more schools with more performance opportunities as they are just so powerful. I want to reach more kids as dance is so important; we need to keep building a strong culture in the Metro Vancouver community. I am just so grateful for this wonderful opportunity through Arts Umbrella.

If you would like to support the development of Arts Umbrella’s Donor-Funded Community Programs, you can make a donation here. For questions about these programs or to inquire about community partnerships, please contact Kelsey Lee, Coordinator of Community Programming, at klee@artsumbrella.com.