917 "C" Street
San Rafael, California 94901
by YIA Mentor Artist Nydia Algazzali Gonzalez
This year my participation in the Arts Unite Us program was special, as it was the first year in nine years that I am no longer the Program Director. This year, I had the absolute pleasure of exploring music and movement with four amazing teachers, their supportive staff and wonderful students! Through Arts Unite Us, I led “VSA Arts Connect All” music residencies at both Venetia Valley and Vallecito Elementary schools, as well as teaching percussion and dance at Terra Linda High School.
At Venetia Valley, students from Kate Mansour and Chelsea Smith’s Special Day Classes engaged in a variety of song games and movement activities. Students learned songs that encouraged practice in motor skills, collaboration, making choices, vocalization, working with manipulatives and listening. In Ms. Smith’s class, we did lots of fun movement songs like “Down in the Valley”, focusing on gross motor movements and coordination; “Little Johnny Brown”, developing fine motor with as we folded our little “comforts”; and “La Guacamaya”, focusing on rhythm and practicing spreading our wings as we flew around the room.
We also had a lot of fun with our egg shakers, looking for new ways to play them and using vocabulary like shake, roll, tap, pat, etc. Ms. Mansour’s students also utilized their digital devices to make song and movement choices. We played a rhythm we called “pizza-pie” to accompany the traditional son jarocho, La Bamba.
Students in Ms. Jansen’s class at Vallecito Elementary enjoyed the variety of songs, instruments and manipulatives that we used during music time. With the song “Mary Wore her Red Dress”, we would sing about something special that each of us was wearing. Students loved acting like fishes swimming through the “Deep Blue Sea”, as we played the water drum and they took turns swimming under the blue water scarf. One of our favorites in this class was when I would bring out the high-pitched jarana to play La Bamba – smiles all around!
At Terra Linda High School, sessions with Ms. Hughes’s class focused on various Latin Dance genres including cumbia, bachata and reggaetón. Students learned traditional movements, steps and choreography. We developed our collaboration skills as we danced with partners and in groups and each student contributed original movements that were worked into the dances. We also had a blast playing percussion instruments and jamming at the end of class.
Thank you to the YIA staff and to Suzanne Joyal for continuing the work and nurturing the program to which I dedicated so many years.
VSA Arts Connect All residencies at Venetia Valley and Vallecito Elementary schools were provided in 2016 under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
And many thanks to the Buck Family Fund of the Marin Community Foundation for their continued support of Arts Unite Us programs.
On December 15 Mentor Artist Stephanie Bastos lead six classrooms of energetic K-3rd graders in a holiday Dance Performance at Harding Elementary School. Students showcased their understanding of choreography and improvisation. They showed parts of the Brain Dance emphasizing high, low, mid and cross body movements to stimulate brain activity.
As a culminating event to eight sessions of dance, Stephanie led the entire body of dancers (students and their families) in a big Samba Dance A Long. Check out the video below.
A Question and Answer session followed. One parent asked the students, “How do you feel when you improvise?” Six year old Blake answered, “I go with the flow and have fun.” Another parent asked, “Does anyone want to be a dancer when they grow up?” Some hands went up when Mentor Artist Stephanie stated, “You are ALL already dancers. Look what you just accomplished.” to a round of applause from the audience.
Check out the community dance here: https://youtu.be/IQLxwSL56ss
Families from Harding Elementary School in El Cerrito joined Youth in Arts Mentor Artists in traveling the world last week! Upon arrival, our travelers received a passport to carry with them as they visited Mexico, Africa, Hawaii, and created a mural.
Outside the multipurpose room, we danced, played and sang traditional songs from various regions of Mexico with YIA Mentor Artists Nydia Gonzalez and Dolores Garcia. Travelers learned various rhythms to play on panderos (tamborines), quijadas (donkey jaws) and wooden frogs. Dancers tapped these rhythms out with their feet on tarimas (wooden platforms) and imitated various animals including colorful guacamayas (macaws), ducks, and vultures. We also learned about many of the traditional stringed instruments from Mexico including the vihuela, jarana huasteca, jarana jarocha, and guitarra de son.
Inspired by African Adinkra symbols and their meanings, YIA Mentor Artist Beth Krebs lead families in creating original prints that represent their family’s beliefs and values. Travelers also designed their own original symbols. Travelers began by quickly sketching three ideas for stamp designs. Next, they chose their favorite, drew it again on sticky-backed foam. Travelers then considered positive and negative space as they cut out their shapes, and stuck it to squares of cardboard. They used brayers to roll out their ink and spread it on their plates before then stamping their shapes on to a community wall hanging.
We also sailed to the Hawaiian islands with YIA Mentor Artist Shawna Alapa’i, swaying hips to traditional hula dances, chanting and playing instruments. Boys wore traditional kukui nut leis and everyone learned to play the ipu (gourd percussion instrument) and learn about ancient beliefs and stories of the Hawaiian people. Travelers learned traditional chants and hand gestures while dancing to the music of the ukelele.
Young artists joined YIA Mentor Artist Julia James in creating a beautiful mural of birds from around the world flying together. Students looked at birds from around the world and created paper birds using oil pastels, markers and water colors. All of the birds were added to the collaborative mural to represent the beautiful diversity of Harding Elementary.
Thank you to the Thomas J Long Foundation and the Green Foundation for their continued support and making this program possible.
Check out a few of our newest program offerings–available to book for your school or community site now!
An image is worth…
Twenty-first century art skills are on tap as students learn how media producers communicate through images, while also becoming creators of their own visual stories. Students de-code familiar visual media and develop a vocabulary for visual communication, and then create their own work on the theme of personal and cultural identity using found images. Looking to help students make more substantive use of your computer lab? This residency with Mentor Artist Sophie Cooper could be for you.
Benny Bendini’s Magic Circus explores explores laws of physics, earth science, green environmental education and color perception. Students discover curious and amazing scientific phenomena from air pressure and centrifugal force to color perception and optical illusions, plus learn about famous scientists like Archimedes, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Guaranteed to be a fun-filled learning experience with plenty of enthusiastic audience participation.
The Alphabet Rockers
In two new shows, the Alphabet Rockers engage young audiences with contemporary choreography, catchy melodies and beatboxing. Performances are age appropriate and aligned to Common Core Standards in math, literacy, and science.
The New Kid in School
This bullying prevention “hip hop theater” assembly explores how teasing and being left out makes people feel, and how friends can stand up for themselves and each other.
Eat the Rainbow
Alphabet Rockers mix fun with food in their hip hop music and theater show about nutrition. Students brainstorm food choices to help the Alphabet Rockers stay strong and in rockstar shape!
Looking for something else? Check out all our program offerings here and use the checkbox filters on the left of the page to find just the program you want.
by Mentor Artist Kaitlin McGaw
In my first teaching artist residency with Youth in Arts, I customized a Common Core/Hip Hop series for four kindergarten classes at Bahia Vista Elementary School in San Rafael’s Canal area.
I used several of the songs from my curriculum to meet these goals, which are outlined at the bottom. In the first week, the students were perhaps a bit shy, learning many new words, formats, and dances with me. By week two, our progress was underway. Our name game “Do Your Thing” gives each student the opportunity to say their name with a dance movement, rhythm or gesture: “I’m Kaitlin… I do my thing!” and hear the class say the name and mirror the movement: “She’s Kaitlin… she does her thing!”
For kindergarteners, learning he/she and do/does are elements of language acquisition. But more interestingly was watching some of the students really come out of their shell over the weeks together, saying their name louder each time. We always give students the option to “pass” – but oftentimes the “pass” I found was merely to provide the student just a few more seconds to think about the gesture or dance move they wanted to share with the class.
The Food Calculator is an original song we wrote in my group Alphabet Rockers. The song includes learning the b-boy move “the wave” along with learning less/more and healthy food choices. For the purposes of this residency, I added a story about the rockstar who brings 1 food each day to share with her friends. (Monday is 1 apple, Tuesday is 2 grapes) The students fill in the blanks for what the foods are. At the end of the story, there is a number sense element played out as they bite 1 apple, pick 2 grapes and retell the order of the foods to the teaching artist. We then use a food calculator to decide which snacks were healthy before going into the actual song as a dance. The kids absolutely adored this song and loved performing it and singing it with me.
At the end of the residency, the students performed for one another, learning terms for “audience” and “performers” as well as expected behavior for both within the arts world. The boys performed “Dynamite” for the girls, and vice versa. They then shared compliments with one another with what they noticed in the performance. It was an opportunity to celebrate the students’ strengths while also reinforcing the ability to say a complete sentence, such as “Josue – I like the way you danced.”
I look forward to working with additional schools to customize curriculum for music/movement with Common Core goals, including adding in beatboxing and rhythm and making letters with our bodies as a way to reinforce early literacy.
Here are the songs I used for the residency:
Mentor Artist Djenane Saint Juste spent the Spring teaching students at Laurel Dell and Short Schools Carnival dances of the Caribbean. Each grade learned a dance, and the story behind the dance, of a special part of the Caribbean.
Students performed for a cheering crowd of family and friends to Laurel Dell’s Fiesta Del Sol on June 7th. Students finished their performance with a parade throughout the playground, drawing family and friends in to dance also.
boys danced also
Djenane with her students
Third grade girls keeping in time
Everyone wore a costume.
Fun with scarves
Youth in Arts thanks the California Arts Council, Artists in Schools grant, as well as the Laurel Dell PTA for their very generous contributions which made this program possible.
by YIA Mentor Artist Suraya Keating
As I entered Ms. Peter’s class for the first time, I am struck by the friendliness of the staff, the relaxed atmosphere of the classroom, the authenticity of the students. Each of Ms. Peter’s six students at Redwood High has a special need of some sort, as well as many special gifts. It is my role, as a teaching artist with these students, to bring out their special gifts – to identify and nourish whatever talent, potentials and joys each student possesses. Whether working in a mainstream classroom or a special need classroom, this is no easy task. I take this challenge quite seriously , and with hope in my heart that in the time we have allotted to work together, each student will be able recognized for his/her gifts and contributions.
While I have been hired to teach a theater residency, classroom teacher Ms. Peter is very flexible, and gives me space to teach in whatever way most creates a bridge with the students. As the first few weeks go by, I notice that 4 or the 6 students are mostly non-verbal. While they seem to enjoy simple theater warm-ups, my repertoire of activities that I often use in special needs classes is not landing in the way I am accustomed to. Knowing that flexibility is key to effective teaching, I realize it is time to change direction.
I have noticed that ALL 6 of the 6 students share one thing in common: a love of music and movement. Whenever I use music in our warm-ups, smiles arise on their faces, and I realize something important has happened: I have found a bridge. About a month into the residency, with the support of the classroom teacher, I shift from focusing on theater to focusing on dance and movement. As we explore dance for the next few months, I see each student come alive in different ways. “Sara” gets her groove on with upbeat music, and adores being the leader in pairs’ mirror dances. “Calvin” loves shouting out and practicing whatever dance principles we are working on during a particular day, such as “big vs. small movements,” “sustained vs. staccato movements” or “straight vs. twisted shapes.”
As is the case with VSA residencies this year, at some point a group of about 10 mainstream students (this time from Mr. Berkowitz’s drama class) join the dance program. Integrating the mainstream students into class seems to inspire everyone: the students with special needs and the mainstream students get to explore various dance principles in duos, in small groups, and in the large group. When the music comes on and students are invited to explore moving in straight or zig zag lines, or with slow or fast tempos, and in many other ways, I see smiles come to their faces as they explore how their own bodies move, as well as how they move in connection to others. Students are mutually supporting one another, acknowledging each others’ strengths, and supporting one another when there is a challenge. I feel grateful to work among students who at a young age seem already so capable of doing with one another what I aspire to do with each of them: to bring out and celebrate each other’s gifts.
Parading with Florencia “Fofo” Pierre
Short School parents and students celebrated the culmination of their Haitian Music & Dance program with a schoolwide performance, parade and dance party on Tuesday, March 18th. For sixteen weeks, students in grades K-2 have been working with Mentor Artists Djenane St. Juste, Florencia “Fofo” Pierre and Jeff Pierre to learn music and dances associated with the celebration of Kanaval or Carnaval, a major midwinter celebration in the Caribbean. Students have also learned words and expressions in both French and Haitian Kreyòl languages. On this beautiful Tuesday morning, the students were able to share music and dances they had learned with over 70 parents, teachers and siblings!
Jeff Pierre with Short School drummers
Djenane introduced a dance game the children had learned in which they dance without touching a line that represents danger or “sobo”. As the children danced down the line faster and faster without touching it, parents in the audience helped with a call and response from the song Ti Gason (Little Boy) in which the dancers are told piga’w pile sobo, male va rive’w (roughly: “don’t step on danger or you will have trouble”).
Don’t step on the line!
A few parents and siblings even came up to try the dance on their own!
Parents, teachers and siblings try to dance “safely”
Next came a grand parade led by Fofo Pierre with students performing steps they have learned in their classes and teachers and some parents following behind as the “back line”. The grand finish was a circle dance with each class taking a turn dancing in the middle, followed by dancing parents and all the teachers!
Short School teachers dance in the circle
It was a fun event with a great parent turn-out. Thanks to all the students, staff and families of Short School, to Djenane, Fofo and Jeff for their terrific work with the students and to the California Arts Council’s Artists in Schools program for its support of this project.
Djenane St. Juste, Principal Pepe Gonzalez and Fofo Pierre
Last Art Walk Downtown Youth in Arts hosted our first Fandango Jarocho. It was fun! We had a bevy of wonderful dancers of all ages led in the traditional rhythms of son jarocho from Veracruz, Mexico. Led by Maestra Nydia Algazzali Gonzalez, a group of 30 students and adults played instruments, danced and sang verses in Spanish. The celebration was also a cross-cultural exchange as we were joined by the Haitian group Afoutayi with YIA Mentor Artists Jeff Pierre, Djenane Saint Juste and Mama Fofo.
Amiel and Ian dancing La Iguana.
After the community workshops, we were joined by local soneros Catherine John Hudson on violin and Joel Ramirez on the Jarana and Guitarra de Son. We played a selection of traditonal sones accompanied by children and adults who danced and played along. If you stuck around until the end, you would have caught a glimpse of Ian Daly and Amiel Gonzalez debuting their performance of the Iguana!
We look forward to the next Art Walk Downtown on December 13, when we will be making artist trading cards to accompany the new gallery exhibit “Imaginary Voyages–Using Art to Understand Science.” See you then!
YIA Mentor Artist Hannah Dworkin
Brain Dance at Marindale Early Intervention
“I FEEL my brain getting smarter! I feel my head getting bigger!” “B” from Meriam Granger’s pre-K language immersion class after her third session with “Brain Dance.”
Brain Dance was developed by Anne Green Gilbert, and it is comprised of eight types of movements based on the developmental stages of a baby goes through during the first year of life. The steps are: Breath, Tactile, Core-Distal, head-tail, upper-lower, body side, cross lateral and vestibular. There has been quite a few encouraging studies about the use of Brain Dance with students of all ages. I have been using it in variations in my VSA classes this year. Each of my classes have very different ability levels, and I found myself adjusting it to fit each scenario. Below are ways in which I found it most effective.
Class of autistic students age 3-5:
This group thrives on routine, so the key to having brain dance work with this class was to introduce it early in the 10 week residency and practicing it daily. I gave the steps to the teacher, and she made sure to reinforce the movement.
Class of students with limited mobility:
This class was challenging because they were not able to move their bodies enough to participate in brain dance, so we all, classroom teacher and aides included, were very hands on. We helped them manipulate their limbs and as needed, and listened to gleeful shouts when we spun their wheel chairs at the final stage of the dance.
Class of language delayed preschoolers:
There were two important things to keep in mind with this group. First, they were very young, so keeping the pace up was essential. I also used high energy, fun music to keep them engaged. I also needed to be very clear with the language I used. I needed to keep in mind that they needed me to use simple vocabulary to describe and demonstrate each movement.
Thank you to the Marin Community Foundation for their generous support of this and all of our programs serving students of different abilites!