The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
Demonstrate how one dance genre is different from another, and find meaning from the patterns of movement in a dance work.
All 13 participating Latah elementary and both tribal schools: Lapwai and Coeur d’Alene in Tensed ID were invited to participate in these programs. The first program: Collision of Rhythm, a multi-faceted artist duo, provided a dynamic fusion of extraordinary musical talent, virtuosic tap-dancing, and beatbox-juggling along with an age-appropriate inspirational message to the audience. The artists played 17 different instruments moving in a progression of style and level of difficulty and demonstrated how marginalized cultures have used body percussion and dance to communicate throughout history. Five rural communities were in attendance while Moscow schools attended virtually. Our second residency provided 2 programs: Ballet Fantastique’s classical Vaganova technique infused with lyrical movement and theatrical costuming in a storybook ballet Beauty & the Beast, based on Sergey Aksakov’s 1858 literature, The Scarlet Flower demonstrated how dance pantomime conveys strong emotion and communicates compelling values. This program scheduled for late spring, allowed us to offer an in-person opportunity to all participating schools. Most Moscow schools were in attendance plus 2 outlying rural communities and 1 homeschool cooperative.
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
Learning from professional artists makes a life-long impression on youth growing up in remote locations. This project allowed students to experience the art of dance, how to perform basic moves, how dance can be understood, and how it relates to culture and values in an impactful manner. For the COR program, students connected core curriculum of poetry to rhythm in movement and music. Artists demonstrated rhythm through body percussion, instruments, and tap performance.
“When we learn different dance and music in our culture it gets mixed into our culture.” said an MCS, 4th-grader. The BFAN B&B programs taught historic Ballet. The storyline, unlike Disney’s magical version, focused on bravery, moral judgment, and fortitude to save the Beast. The students were captivated even to the final q/a session. Study guides were sent in advance, educators filled out surveys, held classroom discussions, and students completed written/illustrated evaluations.
“I enjoyed how graceful the movement of the dancers was. Also, the rose petals falling from the costume near the end showed so much emotion. I learned some basic ballet moves. I also learned that 5 basic moves get more complex. We learned about historical cultures.”–St. Mary’s, Grade 4.
Partnering with this year’s amazing artists, (COR and BFAN) created a theme of inspiration for our year. This message was essential to students coming out of the extreme isolation of the COVID shutdown. A bonus in working with BFAN was that two of their talented dancers grew up learning dance in rural Idaho. The message that students can aspire to great things resonated along with the value of pursuing the arts in rural locations.
Another special moment took place following the Youthreach to Lapwai. FDPA typically brings another drum culture and diversity-driven program to the Nez Perce youth. Due to the Pandemic, contracted companies were not free to travel. BFAN was willing to come a year earlier than scheduled and the decision was made that this large residency include Lawpai. This was the first time the entire student body (over 275 students) had gathered in an assembly since the shutdown (a very first for K-2nd graders). Following the program, Principal, Teri Wagner congratulated the entire team stating, “I have to say, I was a little nervous about bringing ballet, but our students were enthralled.” she said, “You captured their attention and held it! Thank you for showing them something unique and outside of their culture.”
Bringing a two-man show of COR proved wise due to lingering fear of gathering attendees for in-person performance. Fortunately, this multi-faceted artist duo constantly brought something new to the stage in 10-minute increments– holding a captive audience. Unbeknownst to us, our performance venue had let go of all seasoned employees during COVID and experienced vandalism. These issues seriously limited sound capacity during Youthreach. Our versatile performers turned the situation into a huge positive, breaking the educational program down to sound and dance basics that were generated without the use of electronics. The in-person students didn’t know there was a change in programming.
Unfortunately, sound channels intended for the Livestream were redirected and caused initial problems. Following that experience, we avoided another hybrid program. Instead, we scheduled a late spring residency with Ballet Fantastique.
We also moved all of our Discover Dance projects to late spring and even remained with the move to summer school programming for Lapwai. Educators were thrilled, and gave the highest scores on all evaluations, saying things like,
“Lots of fun! Thanks for working with our kids. You gave them an experience they have never had, and took them out of their comfort zone!” –Nate Blyleven, Lapwai 4th Grade Teacher.