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Let’s All Dance!

by YIA Mentor Artist Cynthia Pepper

IMG_3553What 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.

Thank you Abby and Rachel for always being so ready to rock. And thank you to our very generous supporters: BFF-of-MCF-logoMarin-Charitable-Logo


Arts Unite Us at Terra Linda High School

In preparation for our Samba Reggae performance tomorrow, students from Peggy Koorhan’s AP Spanish class and Rachel Hughes Special Day Class created a beautiful canvas backdrop for the stage.  In previous sessions students from both classes brainstormed ideas about the program and came up with themes including Friendship, Unity and Compassion.  Students came together to create beautiful individual flags to represent these themes.

As a visual representation of the two classes working together, students from Ms. Hughes’ class decided that they wanted to paint a tree and have every student “leave” their hand print.  YIA Mentor Artist Suzanne Joyal led the two groups in creating this beautiful canvas mural which will hang as a backdrop in the amphitheater during their lunchtime performance tomorrow.

YIA thanks the support of the Marin Community Foundation, The Green Foundation and the Lester Family Foundation for helping to make this program possible.


Samba Reggae at Terra Linda High

Stephanie dancing with Brian and Neil.

If you happen to be walking down the halls of Terra Linda High School on a Thursday morning, you may hear loud squeals of excitement, the beat of a cajón and a melodic song of “Eu Sou Samba Reggae!”.  These are the sounds emitting from Rachel Hughes’ MCOE Special Day Class at Terra Linda High School, where YIA Mentor Artists Stephanie Bastos and I, Nydia Gonzalez are teaching a Latin Dance class.

Graham moving to the beat!

Graham moving to the beat!

Students have been working on gross motor skills and collaboration through moving in unison, learning choreography, improvising, leading and many other exercises.  During a typical class students go through a series of warm-up activities including the Brain Dance (Anne Green Gilbert, 2000); each individual creates a name pose for themselves; we review learned steps and choreography; learn new material; and then improvise in a Samba Reggae carnival type procession!

Demelza, Maria, Dustin and Graham dancing Samba Reggae.

The focus of our dancing has been on Brazilian Folk dances including Samba and Samba Reggae, and students are very eager to show off their knowledge of the geography, language and dances of Brazil!  YIA Mentor Artist Stephanie Bastos has extensive dance training,

Stephanie Bastos doing a flip

YIA Mentor Artist Stephanie Bastos

studying with Masters of Brazilian Dance and Folklore in The Bay Area and in Brazil, and holds her BFA in Dance from University of Florida. She teaches youth a variety of dance forms including Afro-Brazilian, Hip-Hop and Contemporary dance.

Stephanie speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese, and despite having lost a limb in a car accident, she has performed with highly recognized dance companies in Florida and the Bay Area, inspiring people of all abilities.

Angel dancing and Nydia playing Cajón.

I have trained in various forms of  Dance and Music, and have been providing live percussive music (cajón) during sessions.  I am so excited and feel privileged to continue to work with this fun, energetic and loving class; a continuation of teaching them Latin Dance in 2011, co-teaching with William Rossell to teach Middle Eastern Music and Dance in 2012, and now co-teaching with Stephanie in 2013.

“I particularly love watching my students creativity flow and develop. When the music comes on, I see a whole different side to my students. They are able to break out of their shells and just dance! Stephanie and Nydia bring a positive and energetic energy into the classroom. Learning a new dance and language expands my students knowledge of themselves and the world!”

MCOE Special Day Class Teacher, Rachel Hughes

This year, our neighboring classroom will not only bounce to the beats that they hear through the walls, but, they are joining our Arts Unite Us program, which means that after a few more weeks of working in the Special Day Class, we will be inviting the whole class of mainstream peers from Peggy Koorhan’s Spanish class next door to join us.  We are all very excited to learn together!  Stay tuned for an update in a few months!

YIA Program Director, and Mentor Artist, Nydia Algazzali Gonzalez

Moving to the Beat at Terra Linda High

If you walk down the halls of Terra Linda High school on a Tuesday morning, you may just hear the sounds of a Tabla, Doumbek, shakers and tamborines playing joyful beats accompanied by the gleeful cheers of students in Rachel Hughes Special Day Class.  YIA Mentor Artists William Rossel and Nydia Gonzalez have been working with students for 10 weeks, practicing a variety of basic rhythms and swaying movements which they will present for attending family and friends in a few weeks.

Every student in this class has enjoyed the activities, finding the one that brings them the most joy:

Gihea rocks out to the beat with her upbeat movements, waving her scarves and showing off her moves.

Brian loves to dance with the “friend of the day” (usually a soft stuffy that Nydia brings in to assist with engagement and focus), and his twin brother Neil loves to play percussion instruments on the peripheral of the classroom.

Maria eagerly awaits the moment in which she can sway her hips to the rhythms in a fluid movement while waving the scarves and smiling.

Demelza always insists she is too shy to do her “solo”, but ends up breaking out her special choreography that usually includes some serious hip shaking and the “genie” move, named by a classmate from last year.

Savannah loves to play along to the beat and when she does her solo dance, she smiles and giggles with contagious joy.

Graham, has limited fine motor skills, but always waves his arms in rhythm and shares the biggest smile when it is his turn to shine.

Alessandra absolutely LOVES to help us keep count of the rhythms and her signature dance move is a spin.

Needless to say, we have a blast playing music and dancing with this talented and enthusiastic group of students.  Thank you to the teacher Rachel Hughes and all of the para-educators and aides who are so loving, supportive and willing to get down with our groves at Terra Linda High School!!

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