Posts Tagged ‘dance grant’


Dance Ed Grant Story

February 28, 2018

Hebron Academy

In December I traveled to Hebron for a visit with Teaching Artist, dancer Karen Montanaro and Director of Drama, Sarah Coleman, Hebron Academy. Hebron Academy received funding from the Dance Education grant from the Maine Arts Commission. I really appreciated the opportunity to see the dance residency in action. I was reminded of what dance education provides that is unique to the discipline. The list of skills students have a chance to develop is very long. Thanks to Sarah and Karen for providing their reflections on the residency.


Hebron Academy was pleased to receive a grant from the Maine Arts Commission to support a residency with Karen Montanaro over two weeks in December. The goal of this residency was two-fold. First to provide an opportunity for students in the classes to experience the art form of dance/movement. Second, for the school to offer a dance/movement opportunity with the hope of continuing to develop interest in after-school opportunities, and eventually classes in dance.
Karen worked with three high school performing arts classes on movement, presence, and performance. Students were challenged to use their bodies in ways that were very different from their daily routine – to move, to improv and to explore. At first, this was an extremely challenging and uncomfortable experience for students, but as they became more familiar with Karen they were able to release some of their self-consciousness and participate with more freedom. In writing about their experience students shared reflections such as,
  • ” I truly believe that she opened a door to an unknown side of myself. Through the unusual games and dance movements, she helped me gain confidence moving and using my body as a tool.”
  • “Having Karen in our class was definitely a fun and relaxing experience…with her there [were] no expectations or even limits.”
  • “From that week I explored [a] part of myself [that] I usually don’t.”
As a former teaching artist for many years, the experience with Karen was both typical and special. It was typical in that with anything new, different and disruptive to the traditional approaches to class participation (sitting) many students are resistant. It was special because with Karen, who brings her open, honest, authentic self to every class, students can’t help but release and play. Most importantly she challenges them to practice vulnerability – something we talk about often in our arts classes, but is hard to highlight daily. Even with the large amount of resistance she faced with our 9th graders, she continued to support and gently nudge them to let down their guard at a pace that was more comfortable to them.
A fellow 9th-grade teacher shared the other day that music was on in another class setting and a number of the students starting doing the movement sequence Karen had taught them. That feels like a true moment of impact, and success.

I taught three very different classes and each class had its own positive aspects and signs of success. Two of the classes were electives. These two classes were positive experiences from start to finish. Each student came in ready to learn and try new things. Shyness and self-consciousness showed up in various ways (i.e., moving tentatively rather than boldly, speaking softly rather than speaking to be heard), but all of the students in these classes began to move with more authority and confidence. They willingly stepped beyond their comfort zones — where real learning takes place.
Success in these classes took the form of an enlarged movement vocabulary, more skill and precision in mime and dance techniques and an improved ability to access their own, truly original movement impulses. A lightness-of-mood “greased” these steep learning curves.  With each new skill, students progressed from tentative awkwardness to almost stage-worthy performance.
The more challenging class was the ninth grade arts class with thirty six students. About a third of the class was fully on-board from the beginning, but the remaining two thirds were almost paralyzed by self-consciousness. I told them that I was caught “between a rock and hard place” because the only way my class was going to work was if they agreed to be there. I couldn’t do anything without them. On the last day, all the students danced! They ran and leapt into position and we went through the choreography full tilt. By now, they knew the steps and I was thrilled to see even the most reluctant students moving with more energy and precision. It was clear to me that they had found themselves on the other side of a very threatening learning curve; a learning curve unique to the dance-experience that involves visibility, spontaneity, energy and expressive risk-taking. Watching this class move with willingness and assertiveness, I had a revelation that I shared with them. I told them that my highest hope for this class is that they will experience a type of movement that makes them feel so good inside their skin, they won’t need outside approval.  Paradoxically when you lose this sense of need, thats when you gain real friends  friends that will help you rather than hold you back
I learned invaluable lessons from all the students. They reinforced the importance of what I do and why I do it. My goal is to create a safe environment where they can take huge emotional risks; an environment that allows them to step out of the digital world and into the full light of day — to experience their energy, visibility, intelligence and originality working together in profoundly expressive ways and to love presenting themselves to the world this way.

The Maine Arts Commission will provide the dance grant once again this year thanks to a generous donation from a performance put together by a collaborative group of dance educators. Two other locations are enjoying this funding, I will provide information each of them after my visits to the schools.


In Today’s News

April 30, 2017

Dance Education Funding

John Morris, teaching artist

Up to $3000.00 grants are being offered to schools/districts who are interested in providing dance education for students in grades PK-12. The Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster located at has 14 dance educators included. Contact one of them if you are a school interested in applying for the funding. The grant application deadline is May 16.

Read more about the opportunity in the article at


Dance Grant Series 3

February 11, 2017

Dance education funding – “Hopes for the Future”

This is the third of three blog posts included, February 9 – 11, describing the dance education residency that took place in December 2016 from a special grant called the “Hopes for the Future” funding. Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader and dance educator from Thornton Academy Emma Campbell collaborated and planted a seed and it grew into a dance education opportunity for Maine students. Thank you to John Morris, teaching artist and dancer for contributing this post. He describes the work that he did in MSAD #33 with the grant funding. Please note: funding will be available again during 2017. Please watch the blog and the Maine Arts Commission arts education list-serv for information.

A Teaching Artist’s Perspective

John Morris

John Morris

Thanks to a dance grant created by the Thornton Academy Dance Program and the Maine Arts Commission, in December of 2016 I conducted a week-long arts residency for MSAD #33, in Northern Aroostook County. My approach in working with students in dance is creative, student-centered and standards-based. I give students foundational movement tools to invent and explore their own movement, and I guide them through the process of making their own dances.

In collaboration with visual arts teacher Theresa Cerceo, I worked with a group of middle and high school students, and with S.L.A.M.!, the high school arts advocacy group directed by Ms. Cerceo, to create dances based on a theme of identity and community. The dances were shared during an end of week holiday performance put on at Wisdom Middle/High School.

img_4561During the week, I also worked with music classes at the elementary school in the district. Along with music teacher Charles Michaud, we explored connections between the elements of music and dance. In addition, I worked with Ms. Cerceo’s visual arts classes to explore the same theme of identity and community.

It was a full week working with every grade level, from Pre-K through grade six, to explore their class content in movement. The students created dances based on poems and visual art works they had made individually and as a group in the weeks before the residency. Their dances incorporated the elements of dance movement, including use of different shapes, change of speeds, and variation of high, middle and low levels. We worked together to structure their dances with clear beginnings, middles and endings. We also addressed the crucial life skills of collaborating with others, building confidence, and evaluating work – all in one class session.

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-1-51-58-pmI encountered students in the elementary school at every age and developmental level who were eager to move, explore, and make connections to other content areas, including music, visual art and language arts. They were curious, inventive, and open to exploring the arts in a structured way to express their thoughts and feelings.

The middle and high school students, having more time together, were able to more deeply explore the dynamics of working collaboratively, the process of making artistic choices, and polishing artistic work for performance.

The week went by in a blur, and before I knew it, the performance (a full house!) was over, and I was making the long drive toward southern Maine. I felt both satisfied and inspired by the students’ work. What made this residency so successful? Three factors, which I believe are important for the success of any arts residency in the schools, stood out.

Planning and prep work in collaboration with the teacher

img_4610 Ms. Cerceo and I were in contact long before the residency began, brainstorming ideas together using a shared Google Doc that allowed us to work around our busy schedules. We arrived at a theme (identity and community) that would be timely for her students to explore in visual art and writing, and that I could work with easily in dance.

As the residency drew closer, we continued to share documents, trade emails, and supplement with a few timely online conference calls. Ms. Cerceo articulated her plan for exploring the theme with her students before my arrival. I shared an outline of how I would approach the theme in movement based on her work and the student samples she posted online. This step was critical, helping me to be ready with a flexible plan for each class, and know what to expect when I walked into each classroom.

Full support of the school administration

img_4641Ms. Cerceo maintained regular contact with her administrators about our plans. As a visiting teaching artist, it was both reassuring and freeing for me to know that I had their support. I felt free to fully engage with the students in the creative process of dance-making.

The administrators introduced themselves and welcomed me to their schools. The superintendent of schools in the district sat down with me early one morning before classes began to talk about the residency. The teachers I met expressed their support for the project, and turned out in force for the performance on Friday night.


Classroom culture

img_4570I could tell that the students were used to focusing on the process of structured creative exploration in their classes. Also, because their teachers had prepared them for my visit, they were excited and positive about our working together. One fourth grade student even sent me a video in advance, inviting me to create a dance with her!

This expectant, growth-oriented mindset set the tone for our time together, and was supported by the collaborative planning Ms. Cerceo and I did beforehand. The connections she and I found between our ways of working helped her to guide the students with confidence that my work with them would integrate with their classwork, and deepen their connections to the arts.

Thank you John Morris for providing this blog post and the work that you did before and during the dance education residency in MSAD #33. I am sure that the learning that you provided will be felt for the lifetime of those involved.


Dance Grant Series 2

February 10, 2017

Dance education funding – “Hopes for the Future”

This is the second of three blog posts that will be included, February 9 – 11, describing the dance education residency that took place in December 2016 from a special grant called the “Hopes for the Future” funding. Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader and dance educator from Thornton Academy Emma Campbell collaborated and planted a seed and it grew into a dance education opportunity for Maine students. Please note: funding will be available again during 2017. Please watch the blog and the Maine Arts Commission arts education list-serv for information. Thank you to Theresa Cerceo and Charles Michaud for their contributions to this blog post.

img_4626On a chilly Friday night in early December the Wisdom Middle / High School Arts Faculty hosted the Holiday Night of the Arts. The performance was very well attended with the Wisdom High School cafeteria being filled nearly to capacity. The audience was treated to a variety of holiday songs, new and old. In addition, SLAM!, the Student Leadership in the Arts Movement, Wisdom’s student led arts advocacy group, created a performance art piece as a form of arts advocacy. The evening included the Pioneer Band, solo performances,  student artwork, and for the first time ever, thanks to the Teaching Artist Dance Grant from the Maine Arts Commission and the Thornton Academy dance program, two dance performances under the direction of teaching artist, John Morris. The students created dance performances were the result of a week-long residency with Mr. Morris. Students worked with Mr. Morris & art educator Ms. Theresa Cerceo to create original dance pieces based on students’ poems around the theme of identity & community.

img_4607Throughout the week, John worked with two groups of high school students, S.L.A.M.! and a volunteer group of 8 students that became known as, The Butterfly Group. The students worked with John, first learning basic techniques, warm ups and then exploring concepts around identity. S.L.A.M.! used a poem about artistic process and struggle written by member, Jasmine DeMoranville, as inspiration for exploring personal expression and collaboration. The Butterfly Group took time to write “I am…” poems and then, individually created movements in response to their writing. Through much planning; reflection, critique and practice, the students worked with John to use their individual work and build a unified dance that expressed their interdependence as a community.

Student comments

“This work was more intense then I thought it would be and I learned more about physical motion then I thought I would.  It opened my eyes to a new medium of expression that I never explored before. SLAM!” ~ Daley


John Morris

“The experience last week was beyond words. It actually taught me that any idea can be turned into something great and to never give up, no matter how stupid it may seem. It also taught me that there can be different interpretations to your idea that may contribute to other great ideas. Yes, I was shy because that shell of me is still not gone but I think this experience finally cracked my shell a bit and I know that SLAM! is capable of cracking and breaking my shell little by little. This dance residency helped me think of new ideas for SLAM!. What I want to do with SLAM (since it is my first and final year)  is to have fun and really advocate for art (music, dance, art, drama) in the community and I think the things that happened (the week of the dance residency)  is really going to help me throughout the entire year with my ideas because I have learned that no idea is going to go wasted and it could trigger other ideas!”  ~ Kelly

“As the author of the poem, it was an incredible experience to see and be a part of the process of transforming my poetry into another form of art. Watching (other students) interpret my work deeply and out loud is something I’ve never really had before. Seeing the thought process and the thoughts that it instilled was amazing. Then performing it was really incredible.” ~ Jasmine

img_4639In addition to the work Mr. Morris did at the Wisdom Middle/High School, he had a full week, teaching in the elementary visual art and music classes as well. Along with Mr. Charles Michaud, John worked with general music classes, using dance to teach music elements.  The work done in the Ms. Cerceo’s  classroom was integrated with visual art lessons that were implemented before Mr. Morris’ arrival, around the theme of individual and community identity. Under John’s direction, students used dance to further explore their compositions as well as artistic purpose and communication. These dances included individual, small group and whole class collaboration.


Reflections from grade 5 students:

  • “I learned to personify a painting (using elements; pattern, repetition, etc.).”
  • “There are more categories of dance than I thought.”
  • “Dances need cooperation & teamwork.”
  • “You can see a painting and then dance it out!”
  • “I figured out that movement is a type of beautiful art.”
Theresa Cerceo and Charles Michaud

Theresa Cerceo and Charles Michaud

“As arts educators, our goals are centered around the students. We are here to give our learners a place to be self directed, a place to explore and express themselves and their emotions, and a community where their differences are strengths instead of mistakes. Being able to include dance into our arts program at MSAD #33 has expanded our the students’ understanding of arts and arts education and has increased our knowledge base as educators.” ~ Theresa Cerceo and Charles Michaud


This video provides highlights of the dance education residency. Thank you to Theresa for creating it!

February 9-11 are the blog posts about the dance education residency in MSAD #33. If you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact me at


Dance Grant Series 1

February 9, 2017

Dance education funding – “Hopes for the Future”

This is the first of three blog posts that will be included, February 9 – 11, describing the dance education residency that took place in December 2016 from a special grant called the “Hopes for the Future” funding. Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader and dance educator from Thornton Academy Emma Campbell collaborated and planted a seed and it grew into a dance education opportunity for Maine students. Learn more from this series of posts. Please note: funding will be available again during 2017. Watch the blog and the Maine Arts Commission arts education list-serv for information.

img_4605In November of 2015 a collaborative performance was held at Thornton Academy in Saco. Two schools and five dance studios work together as part of the Community Dance Project to create the performance and raise funds to help establish a dance education grant. The “Hopes for the Future,” funding was available to schools/districts who have no dance education program in place during the school day. Applications were accepted with a handful of guidelines. Two of them being that the funding was to be used during the 2016-17 school year and a dance educator from the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster had to be selected to provide the artist residency.  The roster presently has 15 dance artists.

The funding was to be used as seed money so schools/districts would actually have a complete opportunity to experience the benefits of dance education for learners. In April 2016 the funding was awarded to MSAD #33, comprised of Dr. Levesque Elementary School in Frenchville and Wisdom Middle/High School in St. Agatha located in the northern most part of Aroostook County.  The district’s 240 students and teachers had the unique opportunity in December 2016 for dance educator/teaching artist John Morris to spend a week in their schools.

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-2-00-25-pmI was thrilled to be able to travel to the County and visit the classrooms and see the students in action working with John Morris. Along with John worked closely with art teacher Theresa Cerceo and music teacher Charles Michaud to be sure that the learning opportunity was at an extremely high level. The preparation work that both teachers did before John arrived was evident. The 5 days were documented very well with photos, video footage, quotes from students and staff. It was obvious at the culminating performance on a chilly Friday night in St. Agatha that the opportunity exceeded the expectations.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-9-49-40-amDr. Fern Desjardins, Superintendent of Schools, MSAD #33 said the following:

“MSAD #33 had a unique opportunity to have a dance artist come to the District for a weeklong residency to introduce K-12 students to dance education as an art form.  I gratefully acknowledge Thornton Academy for their generous donation to the Maine Arts Commission to make the competitive grant, “Hopes for the Future” possible.  To bring dance to our rural area opened our students to a different way of expressing themselves by using a talent they may not have recognized or even considered.  This could have opened career options for some of our students who were not destined to seek a post-secondary college degree.  As I watched the closing performance of students at Wisdom Middle/High School’s Night of the Arts, I saw how dance artist John Morris had reached students of all academic abilities.  I was convinced I needed to make an effort to bring Mr. Morris back next spring for a follow-up residency.  He made it possible for a segment of our student population to really express their creative talents that are not otherwise discovered and displayed for our community to observe and truly appreciate – as they did on the evening of December 9, 2016.  The smiles, applause, and comments from the audience brought much pride to our little school.”

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-2-19-39-pmLisa Bernier Principal at the Dr. Levesque Elementary School, Frenchville said the following:

“Having Mr. Morris in MSAD# 33 was phenomenal for students.  Not all students will excel in sports.  The students who participated and benefited in the Dance Residency are students who have talents that would have remained hidden otherwise, especially at the high school level. Administrators and the community of MSAD# 33 believe in the arts and it’s ability to shape and mold the lives of all students. The residency solidified our belief.  We are also very lucky to have exceptional educators who care enough to go above and beyond to bring such activities to the district.”

Over the next 3 days you will have the chance to read more posts that explain the details of the dance education residency. If you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact me at


Big Fun Friday

November 21, 2016

What a day!

I had the pleasure of participating in three very different events last Friday. The STEM Summit, the 3-day reading of Moby Dick, and an amazing dance performance at Thornton Academy.


screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-9-04-05-pmMy morning started at Colby College at the STEM Summit “Building Bridges: Developing Partnerships to Build Capacity for STEM Education in Maine”. I was a member of a panel including Lindsey Pinchbeck, SweetTree Arts; Brett Elwell, EverFi; Hannah Walden, Maine Central Institute; Kate Cook Whitt, Thomas College; and Eva Szillery, Maine Mathematics Science and Engineering Talent Search. The session was called “Addressing STEM From Differing Perspectives for Students” and below is the description. I had the chance to share some of the amazing Maine arts educators work happening in STEAM in Maine!!

Designing engaging STEM learning experiences cannot be done through one-size-fits all approaches. This panel showcases the wide variety of ways learners can access STEM, through the arts, sports, coding, and others. Learn about the opportunities that are available to Maine’s teachers and how you can participate in these innovative approaches to STEM learning and teaching.

Irwin Gratz

Irwin Gratz


From there I headed south to the Portland Museum of Art to participate in the three-day non-stop reading of the classic Moby Dick. It was fun and a fairly intense experience. We had to read from the book that they provided. For those of you who have read the book the language can be challenging and the sentences a mile long. It has been some time since I read to my own sons or my middle school students so reading out loud felt like a new experience. By the end my eyes were bouncing!

Interestingly enough, from PBS radio, Irwin Gratz read not to long before my scheduled 10 minutes. And, not long after me Julie Richard read. What I loved most but wasn’t able to appreciate it (since I was looking down to follow along in the book) was behind the reader on the large screen were rotating images of a graphic novel of Moby Dick.


img_4394My last stop of the day was at Thornton Academy in Saco for the Fall Into Dance concert. Participating schools: Thornton Academy, Berwick Academy, Studio for the Living Arts, Collective Motion, Community Dance Project, New England Dance Project. Last years performance raised $2,650 and the funding was awarded to MSAD #33 for a dance education residency which will take place in two weeks. I was stunned when I read on the giant check the amount of $3575.00. Look for the information in the future and begin conversations with your colleagues about possibilities of having a teaching artist at your school next school year.


Announcing the amount of $3575.00 being given to the Maine Arts Commission to disperse as a dance education grant.



Dance Grant Awarded

April 11, 2016

Aroostook county schools awarded dance grant

MSAD#33 Student Riley Theriault; Teaching Artist John Morris; MSAD 33# Art Educator Theresa Cerceo; Maine Arts Commission Director of Arts Education Argy Nestor; Thornton Academy Dance Teacher Emma Campbell; and Thornton Academy student dancer Vojtech Machytka. Photo courtesy of the Maine Arts Commission.

MSAD#33 Student Riley Theriault; Teaching Artist John Morris; MSAD 33# Art Educator Theresa Cerceo; Maine Arts Commission Director of Arts Education Argy Nestor; Thornton Academy Dance Teacher Emma Campbell; and Thornton Academy student dancer Vojtech Machytka. Photo courtesy of the Maine Arts Commission.

AUGUSTA, ME, April 8, 2016—The Maine Arts Commission has awarded a special new grant, “Hopes for the Future,” to provide dance education to K-12 students in Frenchville and St. Agatha in the northern most part of Aroostook County. The $2,650 award to Maine School Administrative District (MSAD) 33 will give the district’s 240 students and teachers a unique opportunity to participate in the dance making process.

“We are extremely pleased that MSAD #33 will benefit from this inaugural grant.  It couldn’t go to a more worthy district in a very deserving part of our State,” stated Julie Richard, Maine Arts Commission Executive Director.

The district’s Art Educator, Theresa Cerceo, and Teaching Artist John Morris collaborated in pursuing the grant. Mr. Morris is a member of the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist online roster located at

He will guide the students through a dance-making process over the course of a five day  residency that will culminate in a final show.  Mr. Morris has also created an open online resource for dance located in the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Resource Bank at He will employ these resources as part of teacher workshops during the residency so the work can continue after his departure. “In adding dance education to the community’s experience with the arts, we will broaden their knowledge base of the arts as an academic subject,” stated Ms. Cerceo.

Funding for this grant was provided via a collaborative performance held in November 2016 at Thornton Academy in Saco. Seven schools and dance studios worked together to create the performance and raise the funds to make possible this unique opportunity for dance education. The residency will be documented on the Maine Arts Education blog at so that members of the public can learn more about the residency’s process and impact.

The Maine Arts Commission is encouraging other organizations and/or arts venues to consider such collaborations to provide funding to schools to help establish either dance or theater education programs. Students have limited access to both of these disciplines across the state.

To learn more about the Commission’s PK-12 arts education programs, including the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) and the teaching artist roster, or how to develop a grant like this one, contact Argy Nestor at or 207-287-2713.

The Maine Arts Commission shall encourage and stimulate public interest and participation in the cultural heritage and cultural programs of our state; shall expand the state’s cultural resources; and shall encourage and assist freedom of artistic expression for the well-being of the arts, to meet the needs and aspirations of persons in all parts of the state. Additional information is available at

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