After many years of teaching dance to students in special education classes, I was once again enlightened by the clear evidence of student success that these children have in dance class! I attended a peer share at one of our schools sites, Grass Valley Elementary School in Oakland, CA. This morning I witnessed these 2nd & 3rd grade students just illuminate as they performed for their 3rd grade general education peers. Their dances included use of chairs as props, dance vocabulary that included concepts in space, energy & time as well as individual qualities emoting confidence, joy in discovering, community & sense of accomplishment. These dances were inspired by an assembly performed recently by, Oakland based AXIS Dance Company. AXIS is a physically integrated dance company consisting of dancer's with and without disabilities.
When their dance teachers asked reflective questions such as "what movement did you see that excited you? Children replied, "A bursting jump, a low crawl under the chair or connected body parts." When asked to describe how the dancers moved together, children responded confidently & respectfully. Another teacher asked, "How was it watching another class and why is this important?" A 3rd grader responded, "It is really good for the younger kids to watch us because they will be dancing like us one day! " Sniff... I couldn't imagine a more perfect response!
These children have not only built leadership skills through receiving dance education but have strengthened their ability to show empathy while holding each other accountable for a high standard of learning.
One of the fabulous classroom teachers (who danced in EVERY SINGLE dance class with them) documented her students learning with video & plans to share with each of their families who may not get to see this part of their child often enough. Another classroom teacher will be sharing the student designed choreography with their families next week in an end of year showing.
At Luna, we strive to make meaningful standards based dance curriculum that invites both students and teachers to bring their whole & best selves to the dance floor. Our school partnerships are built on a commitment from district, school principal & classroom teachers as well as Luna's expertise in child centered dance learning approach which makes for an artistic learning environment where anything is possible. We keep the barre high for all students.
Often when I witness a moment like I did today where dance is present & alive bringing more art into the world through the creative bodies & minds of children, I am sad that every single child in the world isn't getting this opportunity. I have faith that this can still change. I have hope that my own daughters will have the opportunity to dance when they are in school. They dance everyday already ! At Luna we are privy to the obvious need for every child to have dance education every day in their young lives, but witnessing this success for these kids in particular is a great reminder of why we continue to drive our mission forward of bringing dance to ALL children!
Find out more about Luna Dance Institute at lunadanceinstitute.org.