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O-pa Spotlight: Teaching Artist Aaron Gregory

Posted On Dec 31, 2019, 10:15 AM by Mary King
O-pa Teaching Artist, Aaron Gregory (right), with Ailey Teaching Artist, Nasha Thomas (left). 

Meet Aaron Gregory, an O-pa Teaching Artist (TA) for Disney Musicals in Schools. Over the past decade Aaron has dedicated his life to advocating for youth through arts education. Whether that be as a mentor and choreographer for inner city youth or as the Education Assistant for the Omaha Symphony – Aaron believes in the power of the arts to transform and make a difference in the lives of children.

With a Masters in Dance Education from New York University and experience as a TA for the Ailey Arts in Education program, Aaron has already made a great impact in the Omaha community and beyond.

Read more about Aaron’s work with O-pa, inner city youth and his passion for dance and arts education below. 

Q. Tell us about your time as a TA for the Ailey Arts in Education program.

I saw first hand the impact Alvin Ailey’s work and legacy has on people everywhere. He simply believed dance was made for the people and should be given back to the people. Each facet of the Ailey Organization achieves that goal successfully each year. Participating in the Ailey Residency at O-pa this past October, I was able to reconnect with Ailey’s masterwork, Revelations, and reflect on how I could possibly share my own blood memories through dance in the future.

Q. How does the work you do with O-pa inform and feed your own creative work?

Being connected with O-pa has given me deeper insight into what Omaha has and needs artistically, so I am able to use that information to bring forth new ideas and concepts that will hopefully add to the artistic conversation of our human experience here.

Q. Describe a moment when you saw the arts transform or make a significant impact on a student or the community.

While co-teaching with a colleague in NYC at Lower Manhattan Arts Academy, I remember one of our students was autistic. She was super quiet and operated alone in most times, but when it came to dance she was easily the best performer we had. It was like dancing was her superpower. Watching her perform on stage inspired me every time!

Q. Tell us about your work with inner city youth and the importance of arts education.

I am a huge advocate for dance education so I have just been building classes and educational experiences that will give inner city youth more access to the performing arts world. While teaching in NYC and Atlanta, I taught every type of child within the inner city–the gifted, the under-served, the troubled, the overlooked and beyond.

Inner city youth have my heart the most because they need the arts the most. Life around them tells them they’re just a number, but arts education gives them the tools necessary to succeed beyond expectations. Arts education did that for me.

Q. What do you love most about dancing?

I love the constant bond between music, movement, and motif (theme) that happens. Whether it is partying with friends, exploring concepts with young artists, or sharing dance pieces with the community–dance is very liberating and therapeutic for me.

Q. What spurs or inspires your creativity?

Music inspires me to create a GREAT deal! Listening to different types of music – from classical to gospel to electronic/ambient music, I am able to tap-in and create different worlds based on what I hear.  Personal life events and that of others often gives me the language to build work on. For example, my first solo work was about a breakup I endured, titled #LoveSick.

Q. What impact does arts education have on children?

Arts education enhances the creativity of children by simply giving them the tools to create and see their world differently. They are allowed to be themselves and see themselves in the most beautiful ways.

Thank you Aaron for engaging, inspiring and connecting youth to the arts each and every day! Your undeniable passion for dance, arts education and diverse background make you an invaluable asset to O-pa’s growing education programs. We are truly grateful to have you on board as a TA!