Last week, the students and faculty of Ross School joined Youth in Arts Mentor Artists on a colorful world journey through the performing arts! We “traveled” through North America, Asia, South America and Europe, participating in art forms from each region. The school was set up with a “station” for each region and students traveled from place to place in their class groups.
In North America, Eddie Madril and Sara Moncada shared traditions and dances of the Plains Indians. Sara performed a Fancy Shawl dance for women and Eddie shared the Hoop Dance and even gave students a chance to work a little with the Hoop themselves! The program was a unique opportunity to learn about the cultural contexts in which these dances are performed and the significance of Plains Indian ceremonial practices and intricately made regalia.
During our time in Asia, William Rossel and Jim Santi Owen gave a stunning demonstration of Indian tablas and how the rhythms are connected to language. Students learned about the special way that tablas are made, in order to produce multiple tones, but also discovered that most drums can produce a “high” or “low” tone. They then had an opportunity to play a variety of drums, learning traditional rhythmic patterns.
Arriving in Europe, students were introduced to traditional characters from Italian Commedia dell’Arte. Theater artists Keiko Shimosato Carreiro and Ed Holmes took on the roles of Columbina, the clever kitchen maid; Arlecchino, the comic clown; Pulcinella, the gluttonous dullard; and Capitano, the cowardly braggart, as they demonstrated Commedia elements such as a lazzi (a comic “bit” that a company would build into all its shows) or the slapstick (a noisemaker used in mock fights and the origin of the term “slapstick comedy”). Students practiced becoming characters like the know-it-all Dottore and the treacherous Brighella.
In South America, dance artist Stephanie Bastos taught students the joyful samba reggae dance from Brazil accompanied by percussionist Jules Hilson. As a mid-day treat, Stephanie, Jules and fellow artists from Aguas da Bahia dance company transported the whole school to the streets of Brazil during Carnival with a lively assembly performance. Led by Artistic Director Tania Santiago, the group showed off swirling skirts, rhythm sticks and more as they performed maculele and other beautiful dances. The audience was stunned by a beautiful samba dancer on stilts, and then joined in for a final samba reggae dance-along.
On behalf of Youth in Arts, we would like to thank all of our friends at Ross school for traveling the world with us. We look forward to our next adventure!
Written by YIA Mentor Artist, Marty Meade
VSA Braun High School
Braun High School changed the Clinical component this year, and the approach to working with these “At Risk” Students is different.
These are Junior and Senior High School students who suffer from emotional problems. Many have disruptive control issues, others suffer deep depression. My challenge, is how to connect with them as a group. Those students with control issues need to be ‘reeled’ in, so that they do not sabotage those who suffer depression.
I prepared a variety of art projects that would not only help them to express what they cannot talk about, but those that would provide them to new skills:
Upside Drawing Exercise using Watercolors: learning to see in a new way, and how to control a medium that is difficult. These pieces were matted in pre-cut mats.
Canvas/Acrylic paintings: using a medium that can be controlled. Some students used drafting tape to create straight lines and patterns.
Haunted House: a photograph of a classic haunted house evokes hidden feelings. In this exercise, a child revealed that he was carrying a secret that he was NEVER going to reveal, and that he hadn’t ‘gotten sick’ yet. Another student was able to use rainbow colors behind the house to communicate about being bisexual… In each incident, I shared this information with the Clinical staff
Sugar Skulls: We talk about Day of the Dead being a universal celebration at this time of year… Remembering loved ones, and also to be thankful for the harvests that we receive at this time. We used Royal Icing and Candied sugar for this project. This project always brings up discussions about families, their beliefs, and members that have died.
Glass Fusing/Jewelry and Small Plates: I decided to do this project for two days, as not all of the students were sure of the results. There was a particularly powerful breakthrough with a junior high school student named “Jerry”. He has been off the wall each week, unable to sit in my group with out disrupting. I met with the Director and Jerry before we began and told him that we were using material that would be potentially dangerous (cut glass), and asked if he thought he could control himself enough to participate. He shrugged his shoulder and the Director indicated that that meant “Yes.” When Jerry came in he joked a few minutes, but then asked me to show him how to cut glass. He watched closely, following the precise direction that he needed without cutting himself. A few minutes later, he was completely engaged, focused and creating two beautiful pieces. I called the Director to observe what was going on, as it had not happened all year, and suggested that he be given more hands-on experiences.
Moments like Jerry’s breakthrough, or moments when a student confides in me and accepts the fact that I have to report it because “they mean something to me,” is why I continue this work.
Thank you again for supporting me to do this valuable work.
From September to November 2014, Harding Elementary 4th and 5th graders learned authentic Hula, including history, cultural practices, arts and crafts and vocalizing–in addition to dancing. The kids were all so enthusiastic throughout the classrooms, and fully participated in everything. They asked really thoughtful questions about the history and even taught ME something: lava is called lava only when it’s above ground, otherwise it’s called magma! I probably learned this as a young girl, but in Hula, we refer to it all as lava, so I totally forgot! They loved that I told them they taught me this…LOL!
Our program consisted of learning five dance and chant pieces. Their vocalizing was really impressive, especially from one of the boys, who knew how to use his diaphragm to belt out the chant. It was solid! We danced about Pele, known as the Volcano Goddess, and her migration with family members from Tahiti to Hawai’i, aboard great double-hulled canoes. I explained the metaphoric aspect of this Pele form, and how it relates to the magma moving throughout the earth, which is a great journey as well! Then we danced the popular Lilo and Stitch theme song and another ancient chant. This chant used our bodies as the percussion instrument while we gestured and chanted. Rounding out our learning, we began and ended with dances specifically used for an entrance and exit in a formal performance. These two dances depicted journeying in canoes. It was a great experience working with the Harding Elementary School and I look forward more work in the future.
This Hula residency is part of Youth in Arts “Arts Unite Us” program at Harding Elementary, where we are serving all of the students with visual and performing arts programs focused on inclusion, accessibility and appreciating differences. Thanks to the Thomas Long Foundation for generously funding this program.
Mentor Artist Angela Baker writes about visual arts activities at Rancho school.
During a 7-week Visual Art residency, 5th graders at Rancho observed and discussed their favorite place with an emphasis on sensory perception. How does it look? Sound? Feel? Students looked at various artists who are inspired by place such as Anne Garney, Robert Minervini & Edward Hopper. Through the exploration of various art mediums–drawing, collage and painting–as well as through learning Visual Art techniques, such as one-point perspective and foreground/middle ground/background, students will create their own unique expression of place.