by YIA Mentor Artist Cynthia Pepper
What a wonderful day we had with the Terra Linda Special Day Classes led by Rachel and Abby. We had 9 adults assisting the 12 students on the final sharing day of my residency last week. I thought it would be nice to start our day off with a warm up to Bob Marley. The man! He cuts to the chase with his lyrics of “Is it love?”. It must be love because everyone was smiling while we moved all our bodies in unison to get ready for the big dance called KUKU. It is from Guinea West Africa and it involves fishing with nets, sharing our catch, becoming fishes and having a full on party at the end. The African based cultural dance day eased in with our sharing of energy around the room both in clockwise and counter clockwise directions. We cleaned up the day with Keb Mo and Michael Jackson and my all time favorite get funky dance song “Green Onions” by Booker T. and The M.G.’s. It just takes it away. The paras and the aides all danced a solo in the middle of the room which they all accomplished with flair. Each wheelchair got a pirouette opportunity and the students crushed it with smiles. I love sharing with so many students the joy of movement and music. It seems like it keeps getting better the more we do it. Each time feels better than the next.
by Mentor Artist Cynthia Pepper
The Terra Linda Special Day Dance Class taught by Rachel Hughes got a full dose of The Sleeping Beauty this week. Well, maybe not a full dose but a tiny dose that was so meaningful.
I decided it was time for the students to learn my favorite section from The Sleeping Beauty by the composer Tchaikovsky to start off the holiday season. Nutcracker will just have to wait in line.
We are doing a dance where the lead sleeps for 100 years, which seems more like teenager style. The dancers learned the swinging shape-oriented choreography of the Garland Dance with full excitement. It’s a fun dance and the music says “swing swing swing” throughout each stanza. That is exactly what we did every chance we could find. Side to side, and even more swinging after we created shapes with the hula hoops.
The hoops assist in mimicking the feel of holding flower garlands like a halo above our heads. It really helped students to use their arms in a new and fun way.
The last I heard, the dancers started to do ballet in full force with the guidance of Rachel Hughes who is a fine dancer herself. The dancers went on to YouTube and started to absorb ballet. The new bun-head groupies pirouetted a fresh pathway to ballet bliss. Ballet is worth it–it’s fun, historical, challenging and most of all it feels so much like well…dancing!
Thank you to the Buck Family Fund of MCF and to Marin Charitable for supporting this work.
Cynthia Pepper is back working with Youth in Arts in the special day classrooms of Edna Macguire in Mill Valley, Terra Linda High School in San Rafael, Olive School in Novato, and the wonderful Willow Creek in Mill Valley. She is also working with typical learners at Rancho School in Novato.
“I have had the distinct privilege to create dance and movement classes for over 125 children. We are having such a mutual learning experience together. It is unlike anything I have ever done in my life. I have worked with silk scarves (for parent day), hula hoops for being silly, dots on the ground for wheelchairs to behave and many other interesting tools to help the children grow big in the world of movement. My best tool is music. We do Marley, and Farka Touré and as many Carole King and Fleetwood Mac albums I can slip in when it is appropriate. I am loving it!” — Cynthia Pepper
Mentor Artist Cynthia Pepper taught dance in Mimi Schalich’s Special Day class at Edna McGuire Elementary School. She brought fun, energetic music and tons of cool stuff to her classes.
“We prepared for our performance date by practicing using scarves respectfully, we danced on the dots in all sorts of ways, we did helicopter, we did hand holding dances, we created shapes, we hopped and moved our legs in new ways. We did stretching and sort of a yoga thing! Parents joined us on our final day, and danced with their children. My work with this population has been an experience that I will forever hold dear in my life.”