May 11: Sweet Cherie, John Buchanan, Sugar Bear, Natalie Hopkinson, and Ju Ju at Sidwell Friends School
On May 11, Cherie “Sweet Cherie” Mitchell-Agurs, Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott, John Buchanan, William “Ju Ju” House, and Natalie Hopkinson visited Sidwell Friends School to give students a sense of the rich history of go-go in the D.C. area, its roots as an art form, and its evolution over the years. The school wanted students to learn about go-go in advance of the go-go dance that weekend, a decades-long annual tradition.
Teaching for Change and the performers offered two classroom workshops followed by a presentation in the weekly all-school assembly.
One of the workshops engaged students in our meet and greet activity. Participants take on the role of a key person or institution in go-go history and interview each other. For the session at Sidwell, the artists and scholars played themselves to the delight of the participants. Following the activity, participants worked in small groups to write questions about go-go. The performers and scholars were each assigned to one of the small groups to respond to the questions. This led to a highly participatory and intimate dialogue.
In the assembly, author Natalie Hopkinson introduced each artist and invited them to talk about the history of go-go and their respective role as artists. She also took questions from the audience. One student asked about the role of improvisation and another asked what the performers think of the new bounce beat. Another said, “Can you play more music for us.” The artists enthusiastically agreed as long as students would join in. About ten students came to the stage, including one young man who got on the mic and invited everyone to “get on their feet” to join in. The room erupted in clapping and shouts as the student invoked the time-honored tradition of call and response, a key aspect of go-go. “Hey ya, hey ya, hey ya,” echoed throughout the room as students responded to each chant. The visit ended with the group performing the hit song “Da Butt” with the entire room on their feet.