Award-winning dancer Dwana Smallwood will talk to youth about how to 'take ownership of your life'


PITTSFIELD — If you could dream beyond the circumstances of your existence, what would you want to do?

Dwana Smallwood, award-winning dancer and teacher, will pose questions like this to young Pittsfielders on Sunday. At the first event in The Berkshire Eagle's Youth Empowerment Series, Smallwood will speak of her own journey through adversity to "the world stage." There will be plenty of room for discussion.

Smallwood has mentored kids as long as she can remember. She began the practice officially with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where she sought to "bring dance back to the people." Smallwood then created the dance program at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. In 2014, she founded the Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center in her native Bedford-Stuyvesant. She works to bring creativity, self-expression and pride to this underserved community.

Rather than youth "empowerment," Smallwood prefers the term "ownership."

"I want [my students] to know you have to take ownership of your life — your responsibilities, what you are to your families, your society, your world," she said. "Understand that it comes with work. But whatever you want in life, you can have."

The event will start at 11 a.m. at Barrington Stage Company's Blatt Center, 36 Linden St., Pittsfield. It will be co-sponsored by Carr Hardware.

"These kids represent the future of the Berkshires," said Bart Raser, co-owner of Carr. "We need a community where all people have access to ... the resources and relationships they need to actualize their potential. We're thrilled to help."

The Youth Empowerment Series (YES) is the brainchild of Warren C. Dews Jr., chief consumer sales and event officer for New England Newspapers Inc.

"We want to let people know we're more than a paper," Dews said of The Eagle. "We're part of the community."

Stay tuned for future YES events, such as the backpack giveaway co-sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union coming at the end of this month.

"We are only able to do this with the generous sponsorship of local businesses," said Dews.

Reach contributor Sophia Schmidt at


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