Our school is fortunate to be one of the only schools in the area that offers dance as a content area taught during the normal school day. We teach dance Kindergarten through grade 12 and use dance/movement as an art form that used to communicate ideas, as well as, a tool for calming students through our yoga and Movement and Learning work. As people become more sedentary in general, it is important that we find ways throughout a students’ school career to remind them of the powerful impact of movement.
As we celebrate day 2 of National Arts in Education Week, I want to give a snapshot of our dance/movement work at the schools of the Étude Group via our Étude High School Modern Dance class. What follows are the words of Molly King our Dance/Movement Teacher:
“Every year, I like to start off my seminars by having a shared experience. I like students to learn about each other thru a collaborative piece. It also helps to increase movement confidence-- they get their bodies moving in a way that they are comfortable with and now they will be ready to learn specific techniques.
We re-interpreted Rudy Abreu's "Bad Blood". We brainstormed and defined what "bad blood" meant to us and specifically focused on the phrase: "Forgive me for I am not acting myself. But these bees in my breath have to come out." Then, each dancer chose a feeling that we believed represented the overall emotion of the dance. Next, we picked a shape and a movement that best represented what we saw the dancers do. Then, we paired up. We shared our feeling, shape and movements with our partners. Finally, the pairs paired up and we made small groups. As a result, a new sequence was created, including all shapes and movements from each individual. Next, we were inspired by the title of the video “Bad Blood” and wanted to incorporate the different aspects of bad blood that we have in our lives.
We each anonymously wrote down our bad blood on paper. We tossed the papers into the center of the room and then we grabbed a paper that wasn’t ours. Some examples of the dancer’s bad blood were: big ego, low self-esteem, afraid of the future. We created shapes and movements to represent the bad blood and repeated the process of feeling, shape and movement by pairing up.
Once the pairs created their mini sequences, the whole class decided which pairs would stay as pairs and those remaining would teach the class their movement and we would do that together in unison. So, in the video when you see the dancers performing together at the beginning, that movement is comprised of the “leftover” pairs’ shapes and movements. Next, we started to learn the leftover pair sequences. We organized those sequences and all the small group work into a specific sequence.
Finally, we practiced, polished and had the opportunity to perform in a larger space at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. We were lucky to utilize the Étude Interns. They filmed the performance for us, helped us edit our song and then put the music over the video to make it official.”
This process of interpreting professional work, collaboration and creation are the transformative effect the arts can have in a young person's education. This is why we place a heavy emphasis on the arts at the schools of the Étude Group, and why we celebrate national Arts in Education week. I invite you to see the results of their work in the video below.
As I write this blog, I am surrounded by the sounds of students creating music, the sight of students creating their own dances, and drama students working through their own scripts and improv pieces. At first look, it is a bit chaotic, but after further observation, it is productive chaos. Each student is engaged in doing something; not tacitly learning, but involved in thoughtful dialogue with other students and teachers. The arts inherently do this. The arts engage a child in a holistic approach to learning unlike other subjects. This is why the arts are core to what we do at the schools of the Étude Group. As we kick off National Arts Education Week[https://www.americansforthearts.org/sites/default/files/images/2015/by_program/networks-and-councils/arts_education_network/BILLS-111hconres275enr.pdf] I want to use this week to share with you the transformative impact the arts have played within our schools.
One cardinal rule we live by in the schools of the Étude Group is Engagement Over Compliance. Engagement a result of our investment in creating inclusive school culture, creating relevant curriculum, and building solid relationships with kids. Compliance, on the other hand, requires kids to follow the rules of others without question or voice. We strive for engagement, and where some compliance is required for schools to function properly, our students participate in developing the rules.