Make or Break Year for Citystep

Benefit Ball Tonight

To Sabrina Peck '84, combining disparate talents is not unusual. Her mother is a sculptor, a dance teacher, and a writer; her father is a doctor and a lawyer.

And so in the spring of her senior year, when she was "thinking of everything from Wall Street to law school to international affairs," Peck came up with the idea for Citystep, a dance-and-public-service program, and turned a dream into a high-kicking reality.

"You get so much pressure to take a road that has been traveled," she says about her choice to remain at Harvard for two years after graduation. "I stopped worrying about my future and started thinking about ways I could make a contribution with the talents and resources I had."

Peck combined her dance, choreography, and theater experience with her inspiration to teach children and brought Citystep to four Cambridge public schools. Peck visited each school twice a week, teaching about 85 fifth and sixth graders to express themselves through dance; at the same time, she taught Harvard undergraduates to teach the art of dance.

Working closely with Harvard's most talented dancers, composers, musicians, and technicians, Peck directed and choreographed Citystep performances in which schoolchildren performed on stage alongside Harvard undergraduates. In the last two years, the Citystep troupe has performed at the 350th Stadium Celebration in September and the Boston Shakespeare Theater.

Passing the Torch

For the last two years Peck has nursed Citystep along. But at tonight's black-tie benefit for Citystep--featuring the campus band Robespierre and singer Fiona Anderson '88 in the Charles Hotel--Peck will not be appearing as the program's director/choreographer for the first time.

This year Peck has turned Citystep's reigns over to three undergraduates and is gradually giving up her baby. Campus observers are wondering whether Peck's dream of bringing a Harvard arts program into the public schools can survive her departure.

So far, the prognosis looks pretty good. Under its new leadership, participation in Citystep has blossomed: the number of undergraduate teachers has doubled to 32; the number of children in the program has risen from about 85 to 120; and the group has its own Cabot House office, complete with a telephone, answering machine, and filing cabinets.

With Peck's departure, other things about Citystep have changed. The tasks she used to do alone, for instance, are now shared by all Citystep members.

"We are concentrating this year on laying the groundwork," says Rebecca C. Shannon '89, one of the program's three new directors. "We're making it much more of an established Harvard organization than just Sabrina's vision."

Even the competition for teaching slots is getting stiffer. This year, about 80 undergraduates tried out to become Citystep teachers, and 32 were chosen--a unique mixture of serious dancers and spirited teachers.

Grade School Mentality

In the past, Citystep consisted of Harvard undergraduates and graduate students--some who danced in a separate company and some who taught in the schools. That all-Harvard company has been dissolved, and all Citystep members now teach in the public schools.

"The energies were being divided between the kids and the show," Shannon says, adding that the group's main focus is on the children.