The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
How do dance genres differ? How do styles differ within a genre? How is meaning found from patterns in dance?
Three virtual programs were offered during this project to all 13 participating Latah elementary schools and tribal schools: Lapwai and Coeur d’Alene in Tensed ID. This project provided a break for area students and teachers navigating unique learning during the pandemic. In November a full-length ballet The Little Prince, by Ballet Victoria could be viewed by any student/teacher. March 2021, Youthreach of Tango Del Cielo. Anna Maria Mendieta worked remotely with her team. Study guides went out in advance. Students learned Argentine Tango/Flamenco dance forms, music, and vocabulary. The program did an exceptional job answering core educational questions including how emotion is generated and communicated through dance. The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD) Youthreach began mid-April 2021. Cleo introduced the featured piece Uprooted: Pero Resplando by the late Donald McKayle. Principal dancers taught choreography to clarify the message of the dance and the intent; to communicate instability. Students performed the movements in class allowing reflection on the emotions portrayed by this piece about undocumented immigrants.
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
The students were eager to embrace the opportunity to “move” beyond the limited classroom requirements of the COVID environment to learn actual choreography and discuss how dance styles differ, even within one cultural movement, and how meaning or artistic intent is communicated through patterns of movement. They remarked on the variation of dance styles between the programs. Students had much to say about the CPRDE Youthreach. One 3rd grader from, McDonald Elementary said, “We learn that there are different cultures in the world and what they do to survive.” Another said, “This dance is different because it is telling you stuff about people migrating to America.” And last one student who was just so grateful to move commented, “When they raise their arms it’s my favorite part because it’s fun and joyful.”
Tango responses were similar with all student evaluation forms presented the underlying understanding that “We gain from learning about dance and music from around the world–use it to communicate,” and “We learn about other cultures by learning about dance and music from around the world.” Lapwai Elementary, 3rd grader
The opportunity to learn from diverse, talented, professional artists makes a life-long impression upon students growing up in remote locations. Our educators love these enriching opportunities which help them meet humanities standards that their schools lack the budget to provide. This challenging year deepened that gratitude and teachers were pleasantly surprised at the quality. Following Tango, Krystle Stamper, 3rd grade, Lapwai, said, “The students in my class have a very strong cultural background. It was interesting for them to learn about music/dance from another strong culture. They were able to compare and contrast what they know with what they have learned.” From Troy, Anna Sullins, 4th grade, “My students got up and were clapping and stomping along with the video. Some of the girls started dancing and with that, the boys started going crazy! All good though! We are all having to think out of the box and I appreciate all the effort on Festival Dance’s part!” And from, Krista Cunes, 3rd grade, Russell (Moscow), “I want to thank you again for this unique opportunity to share the beauty and excitement of dance with our students. I will continue to support the Festival Dance Outreach program in any way that I can.”
Reinventing arts opportunities in the evolving COVID environment was intense, and impacted every day of this season. But in the end, all the “victories” to fulfill our mission added up to a successful project year, rich in diversity and new alliances providing the youth of our region access to the arts. All professional companies communicated important messages about dance and culture and molding our perspectives. Teachers like Stephanie Schneegans, 4th grade, Russell Elementary voiced appreciation, “I love the shows and I love that each year a different culture is featured. Thank you for all that you do!”
Our goals of “reaching, teaching, and enriching” through the arts widen worldviews and our students’ understanding of various cultures. This in turn helps students to reflect upon their place in this world and their relationships with others. We are in constant touch with our educators. All schools were operating differently, and it was impossible to provide Youthreach live remotes, even for a group of ten students for a q&a. Gathering participation data was also greatly hampered, but overall the effort was worthwhile.
Our virtual residencies were well received, but by April it was apparent that students were ready for us to offer the Discover Dance project in person. Our social dance instructor, Nolan Payne was working at a local elementary and could offer classes after school. Nolan also taught the African to Hip-Hop lessons during the summer school sessions at Lapwai.