Thursday, July 2, 2009

I'm teaching them...but really they're teaching me

I have been so incredibly blessed by this Philadelphia Arts Enrichment Program that I'm teaching during the month of July. I'm inspired, and hopefully I'll be able to continue walking down this path after the enrichment program is over. We'll see.

So, I'm teaching dance and theatre in an extremely under-resourced, under-staffed, and over populated elementary school in Southeast Philly. I'm telling you, this school has NOTHING! No air conditioner, no computers, no musical instruments...you get the point. But, these kids are so unbelievably joyful and positive. On the first day, I had sixteen little dancers (ages 6-10). On the second day, I had twenty-two kiddos!

I designed a curriculum for students who have never taken a dance class before. We talk about the basics of movement like "why do dancers use counts to mark the rhythm of the music?" or "why is there not a 9th count?" and the kids are enthusiastic and always responsive.

Yesterday they danced basic, almost tribal choreography that involved a lot of stomping and jumping and slapping the floor with their hands. I used Ben Harper's "Better Way" and before we started dancing I asked the kids to listen to the words and tell me what they think Ben is talking about. It was so cute because despite the political message the song conveys, all the kids thought Ben was singing about saving the planet, not polluting or littering, and loving the earth. I went with that theme, and we worked on expressing our frustrations through movement/dance when people litter or pollute.

Today, the kids all wore their favorite color. I used my old stand-by Color Association curriculum (what does red make you think of? how would red move if red was a dancer?) and then we did a ballet-type dance to "Over the Rainbow". I even introduced first and second position and plies. It was so cool. Then, I put the kids in small groups according to what color they had on, and they had to build their own "Color Dance". The Pink girls were romantic and airy, the Red boys were a volcano, the Blue group was an ocean...and it was so beautiful to watch what they created.

I'm thinking I need to write a grant proposal and try to get funding for an inner-city youth dance center where families can pay maybe $10 bucks a month for dance classes. I'm telling you, these kids have never been given the opportunity to take a dance class, but they all love it so much. It's as if they've been waiting for an opportunity to express themselves through physicality. I'm in awe. These kids have inspired me beyond words, and they deserve art in their lives.

Through movement of the spirit,
Jess video

1 comment:

  1. The video made me cry! Have I mentioned lately how great I think you are?!?

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