Archive for April 10th, 2019

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Dancing in Freeport

April 10, 2019

Learners at the center of their learning

During the 2018-19 two schools in two different districts were the recipients of the Dance Education grant awarded by the Maine Arts Commission (MAC). Freeport High School and Maranacook Middle School created amazing units that impacted hundreds of students in Grades K-12.

Collaborators – Teaching Artist Nancy Salmon and Freeport High School Theater teacher Natalie Safely

The Dance Education grant is the only MAC grant that is a grass-roots effort grant. Several dance studios and two high school dance programs have a fund raiser each November. The money raised is what funds the dance education grant at the Commission. Without the dedication and commitment of many educators, dancers, parents, and community members this grant would not be possible. Special thank you to Thornton Academy Dance Educator Emma Arenstam Campbell for her contributions to being instrumental in making the Dance Education grant possible.

This blog post describes the dance education program that took place in Freeport this year. It is truly amazing to see what occurred when a teaching artist and an arts educator collaborate!

Natalie Safley is the theater arts director at Freeport High School but I learned quickly that she is much more than that. Natalie is a connector, an integrative thinker, a big picture and detailed person AND most importantly she “gets education for high school students”! Nancy Salmon is a dance educator and teaching artist who has worked with students and teachers of all ages for many years. Natalie and Nancy put their heads together and created a dance education opportunity for Freeport High School students that would touch younger students in RSU5 and introduce them to possibilities in dance.

FOUNDATIONAL STEPS

Workshop with grade 2 students following performance

Ms. Safley reached out to all RSU 5 elementary teachers for suggestions on source material as a beginning step in this performance process. A kindergarten teacher suggested the books by Kobi Yamada. Once Safley read each of the books, she new that would be the perfect starting point. Each book has a central theme: What do you do with a problem? What do you do with an idea? What do you do chance?.  In small groups the high school students first read the books on their own and pulled out lines and visual images that they connected with in each of the stories.  Then they made physical representations of the lines they pulled out from the text.  It was important throughout the process to have the students connect the text with a physical action. From there students continued working with the texts as well as writing their own pieces related to each of the respective teams. Finally, the students individually created a slide show of images that represented one of the three themes. The images came together and students physicalized them in smaller groups. The final performance had parts from all of the activities. Since the final piece was derived from the students’ own work they were more invested and committed throughout.

CLASS WORK

  • The work took place in the Theatre I class. Days 1-3 took place earlier in the semester when Natalie focused on Movement and the Actor. Nancy provided her instruction on establishing a performance vocabulary. Natalie continued to emphasize this vocabulary throughout the semester. This allowed Nancy to come in during the final project and begin working on the final dance elements immediately; building off the foundational knowledge established early in the semester. The culmination was students conducting a hands-on workshop with the elementary students to teach them the steps needed to perform the dance movement that was performed within the context of the show. Working with the elementary students in this capacity illustrated the high school students’ proficiency with dance literacy disseminated throughout the project.
  • Dance was incorporated into the work in a variety of ways. The work began with an introduction to dance movement warm-up and the elements that are common to all dance and movement of any kind as developed and described by Rudolf Laban (Body, Energy, Space, Time or BEST). Students view a demonstration by KQED Art School on Youtube and talked about the Elements. KQED includes a 5th element – Action, which was discussed but did not include further in our work. Students and teachers discussed where dance movement could be included in the scripts or the production to best support or enhance the message. The opening entrance used strong, quick and direct movement introducing each student and getting everyone on stage. In contrast a small cadre of students were the “Chance Butterfly Brigade” in the 3rd section, using quick, light and indirect movement illustrating the notion fleeting chances that one needs to grab. Pathways were explored as well as the notion of repetitive movement in order to create a background of indecision, decision, action, disappointment, success. Viewing another video students learned a specific lift that required trust, timing, strength, and cooperation to make a person “fly”. Several students were particularly successful at embodying the intention of their character by understanding and using the dance elements.

Nancy working with students on movement

LEARNING/OUTCOMES

The students learned…

  • to work as an ensemble, yet individualize the subtext of their characters.
  • to apply and embody vocabulary for dance literacy and devised theatre.
  • a different approach to analyzing a text for performance.
  • about using their bodies to inform the text.
  • that dance is more than memorized steps.
  • to write a story for performance.
  • student voices – benefits, what are they gaining? How might they transfer their learning to real world situations?

QUOTES FROM STUDENT SURVEYS

  • Dance is more than just traditional dancing to movements. It can be more simple and unique.
  • I’m really proud that we accomplished the lift during the last section of the play because the 2nd graders said that they really enjoyed it and loved that section of the play.
  • I am most proud of accomplishing my different facial expressions. I feel that some of my lines in the play make me have to give a lot of emotion and doing that I need a lot of different facial expressions.
  • The synchronization between everyone in the class and how even when we might have made mistakes, we just rolled with it.

WHAT ADMINISTRATORS SAID

  • Thank you so much for sharing this with the second grade. We were very impressed with the way that your students interacted with the younger kids. It made my heart warm watching our students faces in awe of your kids!
  • Thank you SO much for bringing your incredible Kobe Yamada performance to Pownal! The younger kids were in awe by your moves (especially when you made each other fly!), and the older kids were so inspired by how well you depicted the three texts! At a discussion afterwards one of my students said “I want to do what they were doing one day.” Thank you for being such great role models to the kids! We hope you will reach out with any other opportunities for us to see your work again!

LINK TO ONE OF THE PERFORMANCE VIDEOS

LINK TO ONE OF THE WORKSHOPS

To learn more about the MAC Dance Education Grant program Please CLICK HERE

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