AN EXPLORATION OF BASIC DANCE ELEMENTS WITH AN EMPHASIS ON STORY AND EXPRESSION
This year I offered visits that would highlight reading and fine arts standards.Kimberly Payne
This year was fruitful in producing benefits of long-term relationship building with teachers, administrators that will benefit the students. I returned for the 3rd or 4th year to Wayne County Elementary Schools and enjoyed increasing variety this year. Students discovered the pleasure of telling a story through, not only words but also music and dancing. It was exhilarating to know that I was a part of the power of the arts to help bridge history, language arts, folklore, and fine arts. This year marked the beginning of movement integrative activities for the special needs classes as well.
Dara Timmerman, at Norwayne Elementary School in Wayne County, has included me in the first grader classroom experience at her school for three years. In 2017 each of the five 1st grade classrooms sat stunned, having never seen a dancer in costume. The lesson encouraged kids to identify plane shapes in the dancer’s demonstration. One or two hands raised with nervous laughter to see if they would be right by pointing to the dancer’s tutu and saying, “circle”. Their discovery of dancing and movement was promising. During 2018 word got around and the new first graders were eager with questions for the accompanying ballerina about her age, level of courage, and possibilities for their involvement. With eagerness and openness, and a brief conversation about the weather, I was able to introduce that there are more than shapes in the dancing; there is also energy.
Students took turns imitating thunderstorms, blizzards, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Then, in the spirit of ballet, I structured a limited improvisation for the ballerina to perform the class’s weather ballet. The relationships forged by annually returning to this school helped this year’s Fall presentation turn into a blissful visit. There were many enthusiastic waves from 3rd and 2nd graders as I entered the building with a ballerina. Teachers were prepared, with larger cleared spaces in their classroom, they participated in the movements, and animations we carried out. Their questions were engaging and tied into their reading lessons.
From the beginning of my focus on Wayne County and Southern Medina County Elementary Schools, there has been a warmth developed through providing 1-day visits consistently. I visually noticed sedentary lifestyles among many of the communities. Then, as I asked questions about how students were feeling from moving at their desks or in their classrooms, I learned a little bit about the students. Some students made comments about conserving energy for rural chores before or after school, but the predominant idea from a lot of kids was that they would exhaust themselves if they danced. I noticed that this year’s story-telling focus propelled the energy from the child’s imagination (K-7th graders, and adaptive special needs classes) to actualization of imitating the movements of one of the characters of the story. Students discovered the self-confidence and the ability to relate to a character’s challenge. Many students entered into problem-solving for the characters as the classroom activities developed during our time.
Demonstration | Warm-Up | Story-Telling | Movement Discovery | Performance
Students experienced a 2-15-minute demonstration of the magical production called Winter Sleighride, based on the timeless poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. My 2019-2020 teaching
artist travels were to show students that dance, theatre, and the arts provide an opportunity to take imaginary departures, plot-twists, or tangents from timeless tales and allow the creative process to be daring and bold. This year I continued working at Wayne Center for the Arts in Wooster, Ohio, and brought my students with me. I also began to include professional dancers and visiting artists in private arts integration workshops.
According to legend, the poem, also known as “The Night Before Christmas,” was penned by Clement Clarke Moore for his family on Christmas Eve in 1822. After making its first appearance in print on December 23rd, 1823 for the Troy (New York) Sentinel, the poem was reprinted in newspapers, almanacs, and magazines all over the country. Nearly two hundred years later, the poem continues to thrill children as they await the arrival of the mysterious, loving, jolly man bringing gifts and joy.
The classroom visit began with students seated at desks and a dancer showing a classical basic ballet variation with music. After the applause, I began, “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house…”. After a few lines students were asked to identify the timeless poem. As I continued “the Father throws open the shutters and…. sees……? “Santa Claus!” the children would shout! Then, I asked the children, “what would happen if the Father woke up all of his children and they accepted an invitation to go with St. Nicholas on his holiday adventure?”
Students contributed a variety of ideas. As their impulse to talk with their hands rose and movement increased, I offered an axial warm-up, then students had the opportunity to explain to the class what that might look like. Then, the ballerina would abstract their ideas and demonstrate them with classical gestures, mime, and ballet steps. Their customized version was celebrated. Following the exciting classroom participation, I shared more about the plot of the Winter Sleighride Production. Students learned of soaring through stars with a flying sled, an enchanted toyshop with a large magical box that brought toys to life. The session would end with a performance demonstration from the ballet, an invitation to attend the event, and a time of question and answer with the dancer.
Modification for Adaptive Dance:
The Edgewood Middle School special needs class came into the dance studio for a field trip. The classroom and a waiting room were prepared with chairs and additional activities for students to use during the movement class. The light physical activity included an axial warm-up, loco-motor steps from side to side of the room, and a circle for creative movement game playing. After a cool-down and stretch the students were presented with a contemporary dance demonstration, of my dancing. Then I showed them props from Winter Sleighride, photos, and different costume elements to touch and pass between each other. There were 7 adult assistants and 16 participants. 3 students and 2 assistants moved to the waiting room for coloring and costuming activities.
My Rookie Year with OAC:
What an illuminating experience! My artistic vision came together this year, I learned just how competitive the industry is, and I transitioned to offering online content. Together, with other teaching artists and the OAC, I survived the Novel Covid-19 pandemic. The coming year will be an uphill climb. I trust it will bring new opportunities and a release of content that I’m ecstatic to publish and share with others!
Before 2017 my dance integration lessons were coming from a contemporary and modern dance foundation. In the last few years, I intentionally shifted the platform to classical ballet. This year marked a true calibration, as an individual artist, for utilizing both. The magical aspects of ballet and a playful discovery of modern contemporary dance. I also recognize a nice team of professional dancers I’m humbled to work with. I’m hoping to increase my knowledge and grant writing skills, financial support, and marketing know-how. With time, I envision a dance theatre company that will tour with me to perform along with side students.
With all the research and validation of integrative arts, I found it puzzling that teachers and administrators remain overwhelmed to find time and money even as Universal Design Learning, Arts Centered Learning, and Cognitive Agility through the Arts soars. The benefit of providing arts enhancements, arts integrations, and student needs is still untrusted and it remains a tremendous burden of time, known partners, and d=funding accessibility for such endeavors. In response to this, I am diligently working to learn the ropes of such a competitive funding process, and I am beefing up my online content during the Covid-19 pandemic to be able to partner with teachers and administrators upon the return to school. My resolve to help kids is stronger than ever.
The level of excellence and experience I offer does not always successfully guarantee a student body to offer it to, so I hope to increase relationships with intervention specialists, occupational therapists, guidance counselors, physicians, and music therapists. I believe there is a way, and I hope to learn it. At every turn I see meaningful learning experiences unfold through my visits to schools. Schoolteachers comment at each location that they are surprised that I can cover the content material in short visits. A photo book of my Math & Science lessons should inspire some scheduling this year, although I withheld the publication to schedule an additional photo session to increase the inclusion of minorities and special needs students.
The advantage of using the performing arts to teach students about reading key details and finding out how characters respond to major events and challenges was that I gained nearly 100% engagement in the classroom. Kids who normally do not enter discussion seemed to feel free and capable of this praxis. Student self-efficacy increased after playful movement and expressive storytelling. The trust and rapport from remaining familiar and using a collaborative approach allow the students to absorb a great deal of content. 2019-2020 was unreal. I’m so excited for the coming year and for the possibilities and shifts in school districts that may bring opportunities to Ohio Teaching Artists.
Benefits for Teachers
Teaching artists are changing the world because students resonate with the integrative arts experiences we provide.
Samantha Miglich, a classroom teacher at Apple Creek Elementary reached out this year when she became principal at Mt. Eaton Elementary. I was humbled and grateful that one classroom teacher decided to include me in her entire school building the following year. She knew that the lesson retention increased in her classroom and chose to include it for an entire school building. This year I visited 2195 students in Wayne and Medina County Schools. Instructional workshops were offered at all Wayne County Libraries and 2 Medina County Libraries, and privately. Special needs students were engaged in class at Mt. Eaton and Cloverleaf Elementary. Orrville invited me to the elementary, middle school, and placed me with the High School Drama class. Teachers enjoyed knowing the content before the visit, seeing the lesson plan and enjoyed the animated facial expressions and movements of the kids.
Teacher relationships will leverage over time. It was a thrill to offer Professional Development Workshops for Educators through Stark Educational Service Center in Canton at Oakwood Middle School and Kent Stark University. The most meaningful aspect of this year’s work as a teaching artist is two-fold. First, I’m happy to know that students recognize me, and administrators welcome me to their buildings. It affirms learning and discovery. Dance is memorable and a feeling of positivity and hunger for more is resonate. Next, my fresh experience of being on the Ohio Arts Council Teaching Artist Roster has been validating and it’s giving me hope that partnerships can be created that will help me deposit my career experiences and inspire teachers to use their creativity. Education will continue to change and the Covid-19 pandemic may have canceled 4 new school visits in Medina and Summit County, but I’m not stopping or giving up. I’d like to be a part of using my gifts in arts and my educational toolbox to continue to equip teachers with courage and strategies using arts.
“I believe students’ lives start changing for the better when they learn to move.”
- I will continue to be consistent with visiting and re-visiting classrooms and schools to increase curiosity. My hope is for the school to select a 1 day, 3 day, or 2 week residencies.
- I will continue to be energetic and enthusiastic during instruction by adding a lot of dancing into the presentation.
- I will continue to involve young performing artists in costume to demonstrate. This coming year I will perform and include professional colleagues.
- I will continue to encourage students to move and experiment with dancing. I believe it increases cognitive agility and releases needed endorphins.