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Building Dance Literacy

West Ada School District

Repertory Dance Theatre, the oldest and most successful modern dance repertory dance company gave a three-day artist in residency for five public arts schools of choice in West Ada School District. The purpose of the residency was to build dance literacy. The residency included 7 dance assemblies, two full-length student co-choreographed dances, 3 community dance classes, and 14 dance classes for the arts schools. Dance is the least taught art form in the five arts schools of choice. Dance is an ensemble art form. Dance literacy and communication skills are taught when people are put in groups & come together to creatively communicate through movement choices & discuss the dance work as a group. Students exercised dance literacy as they developed & used dance vocabulary in the process of creating, performing, & observing dance. Students learned how dance is an art form that can be used to communicate & express. This project helped students develop capabilities, actualization, & confidence as dancers. Students explored, “What is dance” and “Who are dancers.” Students built dance literacy from seeing it modeled by the professional dancers & other students, experiencing dancing themselves, hearing, writing, & speaking the dance vocabulary.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How can a dancer solve dance problems in multiple ways through movement and communicate ideas to an audience?

A clear sequence of dance learning activities deepened students’ interests, skills, & understanding to achieve the project’s essential question and goals. The combination of teachers introducing the upcoming dance artists with a pre-residency packet & assessment before the artists arrived, RDT performing for the students in assemblies, collaboratively choreographing with students, & teaching master classes gave multiple modal ways of building dance literacy. The students had multiple opportunities to see dance, discuss/write/draw about the dances they see, & dance themselves, and create dances to perform for each other. 1-The elements of dance, dance structures, and choreographic devices serve as both a foundation and a departure point for choreographers. 2-Dance is interpreted by considering intent, meaning, and artistic expression as communicated through the use of the body, elements of dance, dance technique, dance structure, and context. 3- Choreographers use a variety of sources as inspiration and transform concepts and ideas into movement for artistic expression. 

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

This dance residency contributed to what students know and are capable to do in the art of dance. The Idaho and National Dance Learning Standards Pre-K through 12th grade guiding the residency were 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work. 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation. Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work. Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work. Anchor Standard 9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.  Students gained an enduring understanding that: Choreographers use a variety of sources as inspiration and transform concepts and ideas into movement for artistic expression. The elements of dance, dance structures, and choreographic devices serve as both a foundation and a departure point for choreographers. Space, time, and energy are basic elements of dance. Dance is perceived and analyzed to comprehend its meaning. Dance is interpreted by considering intent, meaning, and artistic expression as communicated through the use of the body, elements of dance, dance technique, dance structure, and context. Criteria for evaluating dance vary across genres, styles, and cultures. Links to student interviews: https://vimeo.com/443583225

https://vimeo.com/443583250

https://vimeo.com/443583270

https://vimeo.com/443589047

Impact

All participants in this residency were dancers. This residency involved 3 teaching artists, over 1800 students and 100 adults as participants. Dancers took part in watching dance performed by professional dancers and students, and discussions to resolve problems through movement. When people engage in improvised kinds of dance it helps them with divergent thinking; where there's multiple answers to a problem. Dancers danced stories with & without text, with & without writing, with speaking & without speaking, & always moving. Dancers communicated with storytelling through movement. Writing inspired movement making for choreography, & dance movement will inspired what is written. The residency learning activities fostered the mission of: Building Dance Literacy & Teaching that Dance Helps People Become More Connected, Compassionate, & Expressive. 

Reflection

The residency was a great success. Repertory Dance Theatre dance artists, Nicholas Cendese, Lauren Curley, and Elle Johansen are talented teaching artists. The schools wished for more contact time with the dance artists. It was challenging for only three dance artists to teach and perform for five schools in three days. We wish to raise more funding to extend the length of the residency and the number of teaching artists. Students and teachers were engaged during the residency and the student and RDT collaborative choreography were beautiful. The students performed the dances for the school in an RDT assembly. Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the dances were never performed formally on a stage with costume, lighting, and a community audience.

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