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.
Alphabet Rockers’ Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shepherd put on a fantastic performance of their show Playground Zone: Diversity for the K–2nd graders at Glenwood Elementary in San Rafael. They performed several new songs from their recently released album, Rise Shine #Woke, which was created to to “interrupt racial bias inspire families to make change in the world.”
Students were encouraged to get up and learn the Hip Hop dances with the Alphabet Rockers. Everyone was on their feet, and the positive and powerful messages of the songs resonated with the young audience and teachers alike.
As a follow-up to the performance, Kaitlin and Tommy each taught more in-depth workshops in the 2nd grade classrooms. The students practiced the dances they’d learned in the assembly, and then broke down the songs to get more out of the content. Students were asked what they thought the songs with titles like Stand Up for You, and Shine meant. The responses were wonderful and demonstrated how clearly they got the messages. They said things like: “the song is about being friends with people of all different skin colors,” or “the song is about loving everyone no matter what.” Then the kids were asked to define some of the words in the songs, such as injustice. One student said, “Injustice means you are fighting for love.” Finally, they were asked if they feel we are treated differently based on how we look. Many of the students said no, but a couple raised their hands to indicate yes, not ready to share more. One said, “No. We shouldn’t be. We love all colors.”
by Mentor Artist Stephanie Bastos
My work at Harding Elementary School for this residency focused on two main ideas:
Choreography and Improvisation. I utilize Contemporary and Creative Dance techniques like the Braindance to guide learners through a process of self-discovery, movement exploration and collaboration. This creative process also includes cultural relevance by basic exposure to Samba Reggae, a liberation dance and music from Bahia, Brazil. Samba Reggae comes from a 1970′s era political movement in Brazil lead by Afro Brazilians in Bahia claiming their space in an otherwise segregated, racist and classist society. It is a dance of celebration and the choreography is made up of repetitive movements in eight or four count phrases. The constant repetition allows ample space for learners to see, practice, and execute the choreography within a rhythmic pattern while learning about cultural relevance.
Improvisation is guided by creative dance concepts like the Braindance that is used to warm up the body and breath by mapping all movement patterns like upper half and lower half of the body and cross lateral movements. Other creative dance techniques like levels, shaping and use of personal and community space expand learners’ awareness of the space their bodies take up and all the possibilities for movement within and around that space.
It is always a pleasure working with Harding because they have a beautiful auditorium, a community of kind and caring staff and learners and a genuine appreciation for quality arts education. After so many years of moving and building relationships with the Harding Community, I can say that I feel a strong connection with the school and am proud of the work we have done together.
I believe all children deserve a safe space to practice quality arts education!
Thank you Harding!
Students and teachers of Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael celebrated the end of the year with their families and community at their annual Fiesta del Sol!
The students were given the spotlight and took the stage to showcase their new flamenco dance skills as the culminating event from their YIA spring arts residency with Bay Area artist Sara Moncada.
TK thru 5th grades shared art, music and dance with all of their communities! It was a great day, thank you Laurel Dell!
This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.
Glenwood Elementary School’s K–3rd graders hosted The Alphabet Rockers for two fantastic back-to-back assemblies on Wednesday, May 24th. Kaitlin McGaw, Tommy Sheperd and DJ Juan Amador performed their newest assembly entitled, The Playground Zone: Diversity for the two lively student audiences. The show focused on inclusion and raising awareness about diversity in the student community. The Alphabet Rockers used hip-hop music and dance to engage the kids, while talking to them about the importance of self-identity, and being an ally to fellow students. One of the highlights of the performance was when the students were asked to create handshakes with a partner. Kaitlin and Tommy demonstrated for the students by examining the back of their own hands and coming up with creative names for their skin color. Tommy called his, “Carne Asada,” and Kaitlin dubbed hers, ”Peach Salsa.” They decided that sounded like a delicious taco, so they devised a “Taco Handshake.” They challenged the students to do the same, and name their own skin color after a familiar object or thing. The resulting handshakes were fantastic, and the students’ creativity really shined.
Another great moment, was when The Alphabet Rockers asked the students what they were going to do to change the world. Tommy walked around with a microphone and got very thoughtful responses from every student in the audience.
For the finale the Alphabet Rockers had the audience form a giant circle, and invited students and teachers to take turns doing their own unique dance in the center. What a fun and invigorating morning at Glenwood Elementary!
By Mentor Artist Sara Moncada
The teachers and students at Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael have spent the spring season immersed in the strength and beauty of flamenco music and dance. Over the past 12 weeks every class, from TK to 5th grade, has had the opportunity to learn about the relationship between musicians and dancers, different palos or rhythms of flamenco, discuss and try different flamenco accessories or “tools” such as the bata de cola – the long train skirt – and also explore the role of cultural dance as a way of preserving traditions and sharing diverse cultures with community.
On top of it all, it has been an amazing time working with each class on their dancing and each class is getting ready to share their new flamenco skills in a full school performance for friends and family celebrating the end of their school year! Ole´!
#youthinarts #flamencodance #kidsdance
This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.
Julia Chigamba and the Chinyakare Ensemble put on an incredibly lively performance at Marin Primary & Middle School’s International Day. They performed three traditional Zimbabwean dances for the student audience of about 200. First, was a welcome dance called Mauya in the Shona language.
The next piece celebrated the vital source of water with the artists vigorously dancing with full jugs on their heads. Students gasped and cheered as Julia Chigamba and Casey Daliyo moved quickly around the stage with the water precariously perched on their heads.
Lastly, was a dance rejoicing for the harvest performed with baskets containing various seeds and beans. Student volunteers were invited up on stage to participate in the harvest dance. They practiced balancing the baskets on their heads, and shaking the beans and seeds around which added a wonderful sound element.
All of the Chinyakare’s dances were accompanied by beautiful music expertly played by Ronnie Daliyo and Augusten Basa, on Zimbabwean instruments such as the mbira, ngoma, marimbas, and chipendani. The troupe answered a few questions from the engaged student audience, before receiving their well deserved standing ovation!
Mentor Artist Eddie Madril reports on his latest residency in San Rafael:
In a beautiful surrounding, the children at Glenwood Elementary School in San Rafael got the opportunity to experience learning, trying, and “honing their craft” at various American Indian dance styles. The teachers encouraged their exploration and learning of Native culture, history, and world views while challenging themselves at Grass Dance, Fancy Dance, Fancy Shawl Dance, and Hoop Dance. These are all dances that can be seen at powwows across the U.S. Of course, the teachers also engaged in trying the dances themselves as any good teacher would do in order to lead by example. They worked so hard at their dancing that one day we had to try a few traditional Native games, and they did great!
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
In February students hit the ground and took off with Hula and Teaching Artist Shawna Alapai returning for a second time to every classroom at Sonoma Mountain Elementary School.
It was wonderful to see many familiar (but more mature) faces, and as we started dancing, I could see and feel the familiarity coming through in the steps and movements of the kids. We’ve been very busy learning some Hawaiian language words, meanings, history, myths and cultural practices along with the dances. I love to have the kids sing along while they dance and they’re really using their voices to help express their Hula!
We’re delving into a variety of dance styles this year, with an ancient chant (danced with canoe paddles) that tells the story of the migration on double hulled canoes from Tahiti to Hawai’i…anyone see Moana??? Then, we’re exploring a bit of the Maori culture as we learn a Hula Noho, or sitting dance to the song Hoe Ana. I’ve incorporated the kala’au or hula sticks into this Hula and the kids really like using them to keep rhythm and express their motions at the same time. The 6th graders have really stepped their Hula up a few notches, as they learn a Maori Haka and Poi Ball piece.
My Accompanist, Stephanie Behasa, made 35 sets of Maori Poi Balls for the girls to use. At first they were a bit intimidated, thinking it was too difficult, but I assured them that all they had to do was practice. Well, guess what? They’ve got it! It was such a delight to see their eyes light up when they achieved the routine, and to feel their absolute enthusiasm as we continue to progress in the style. The power of a Maori Haka is so infectious, that I decided to share that piece with all grades, K-6, and it’s a HIT! They all can’t wait to run through it when we’re working together and when their teachers come in, the surprise on their faces as their students put their all into the dance, is priceless.
Sonoma Mountain School is rockin’ it out of the Multi Purpose Room every week, and when we do our school performance on April 28th, the hills surrounding the school will be vibrating to the tunes of Hawaii and Aotearoa (New Zealand)!
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