Boston Arts Academy students’ show at Strand employs live art ‘to heal and engage people’

Students and faculty of Boston Arts Academy, above, will take over the Strand Theatre this week for the school’s 20th anniversary production, “Dancing in the Streets.” Photo courtesy BAA

Boston Arts Academy (BAA) will present a three-day production of “Dancing in the Streets: A 20th Anniversary Celebration” at the Strand Theatre this week. The Motown-infused contemporary performance ties together song and dance and features 60 student singers, dancers, and musicians. The original and collaborative performance, conceived and directed by BAA Dance Department co-chair William McLaughlin, will integrate the performers to express and rejoice the journey of BAA.

“The students express themselves in the most unique ways and BAA gives them the opportunity to be themselves and live in their art and be respected for that,” says BAA teacher Maura Tighe. “And to gain the self-esteem they need to get to the next path.”

The performances will be held this week on Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., and on Saturday at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the door with prices set at $15 for adults and $10 for children and seniors.

The Strand has become an important venue for BAA, the city’s only public high school for the visual and performing arts, which is located next to Fenway Park. The city-owned theatre on Columbia Road has hosted the academy’s annual concert since 2015, bringing in large audiences for shows including “In the Heights” and “The Wiz.”

More than 3,000 people watched last year’s production, “The Wiz,” over three shows. It was a huge show of support for the school and for the theatre.

Johnny Del Jesus, a student and performer, said this season’s presentation is preparing him for his career. “My artistry is expanding. My performance quality is getting better. As a dancer, I feel really strong and I’m developing versatility,” he said.

Tighe described the performance as abstract, but in a connected way. The first act will tell a story, the intermission will include a slide show, and the last act will feature dancers and musicians doing solos on stage.

Tighe, who has been teaching and producing events for the past eight years, wants the audience to perceive how vital a role BAA plays in Boston neighborhoods. “We’re hoping that people see Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, and how these neighborhoods have a vibrant cultural life, and how these kids have a cultural life to share,” she said. “Last year, we had our show right after the election and it was a healing place. People really felt the power of performance and art. We want to make that part of what we do all the time."

“Everyone needs to be happy,” she added. “Things are so tense right now, and we want to celebrate our diversity, our talent, and our neighborhoods.”

The academy will host a special reception on Friday to honor Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. The ticketed reception ($100) includes admission to the show and benefits the school. Healey is being honored for a “career spent fighting for social justice and equal rights, as well as her incredible passion for the arts,” according to the school.

“The show is a piece of social justice that uses art to heal and engage people, and to bring people under one roof,” said Tighe. “[Healey] has been so integral to some of the issues we really care about, and that Boston cares about. It was the right time to acknowledge her. She’s really a force and a change agent, and we feel like in our own way, we are too.”

BAA acknowledges that they want people to see the performance whether they can purchase tickets or not. The doors are open. To donate to Boston Arts Academy or to buy tickets to “Dancing in the Streets,” please visit