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Festival Dance

Festival Dance and Performing Arts

Festival Dance sponsored five Youthreach projects featuring professional touring companies for the 2018-2019 season:  one by London Handel Players, United Kingdom, at University of Idaho Auditorium on 10/24/18.  A total of 286 students/30 adults attended; three by Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT) from Salt Lake City, including:  one project at Genesee Elementary for 150 students/20 educators; one at Lapwai elementary on the Nez Perce Reservation for 240 students/30 educators;  and one at Gladish Community Center for 828 students/41 educators;  and last, one by The Young Irelanders from Ireland on March 1, also at Gladish for 601 students/41 educators. All Programs included narration, demonstration, performance, audience participation, and a question-and-answer session with the artists. In addition, all educators received study guides in advance. Participating schools from Idaho included Moscow, Potlatch, Troy, Genesee, Juliaetta, and both Coeur d’Alene and Lapwai Tribal Schools.


Finally, 21 Discover Dance classes were taught by Judy Drown, faculty members of the UI Dance Program and Festival Dance Academy. Classes were taught in a series of three, covering African Dance, Jazz and Hip Hop with pop & lock and illustrated the cultural connections and evolution of styles. One school in Moscow, the Juliaetta/Kendrick Elementary and Lapwai Elementary participated.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

Understand Dance/Responding – “How is Dance understood?”

DA:RE7.1.3b Demonstrate and explain how one dance genre is different from another, or how one cultural movement practice is different from another.

DA:RE7.1.4b Demonstrate and explain how dance styles differ within a genre or within a cultural movement practice.

DA:RE7.1.5a Find meaning or artistic intent from the patterns of movement in a dance work.

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

The London Handel Players demonstrated Baroque era music, dance and costume. The performers introduced musical pieces and court dances from the French period of King Louis XIV. Teacher surveys ranked the project as very valuable in terms of expanding students’ understanding and appreciation of the arts, and gave the highest marks on how well the Humanities standards were met–specifically in how arts can teach us about history and other cultures and in expanding students’ understanding of the relationship between dance and music.

RDT provided exceptional demonstrations, drawing bridges between the arts and math, science and PE. The culturally diverse program depicted styles including East Indian, African, and a Chinese scarf dance. All the dances were explained as culturally relevant and showed the evolution into current dance styles that students might enjoy; Hip hop, Macarena, and Swing. Survey measurements for meeting humanities standards scored 98%, and numerous educators declared that this was the “Best!”

The Young Irelander’s program provided Folk ballads, jigs, beautiful arias, diverse instrumental work, and amazing footwork which spanned styles from multiple generations of Irish dance and music. All the dances were explained, and a demonstration given on basic steps.

Discover Dance employs hands on learning of dance technique combined with narratives and class discussion to increase knowledge and appreciation of how dance reflects culture and changes with time. Students learned about the evolution of jazz from African roots to modern Hip Hop, and practiced rhythm, beat, syncopation, and improvisation. They learned basic techniques and how to create dance.


The opportunity to interact with these diverse, talented, professional artists makes a life-long impression upon these young people growing up in remote locations. For most, this is the only chance they have to view and experience this type of professional artistry. Our goal is to make it personal!  Even though we bus students to a large auditorium, they each get the chance to interact with the artists. They are invited on stage, or down to the gym floor to learn dance directly from professionals. This project afforded students the opportunity to experience a wide and rich diversity of the art of dance, how dance can be understood and how it relates to culture and values in a way they will never forget.

Our educators love these enriching opportunities which help them meet humanities standards that their schools lack budget to provide. They constantly thank us for inviting them to participate. Sample responses: “The greatest educational value was to see the correlation between music, theater, history and even math.” The instructor continued, “I loved the way humor was added. Great way to pull kids into what they are seeing and learning.” Cherisse Lots, 3rd Grade.

The overall program year allowed 2,338 students, including students from 11 different Idaho schools (five in Moscow and 6 in smaller outlying areas) representing 9 separate communities, including both Reservations. These are ongoing programs with students from grades 3-6 attending a different, rotating, genre each year, providing great exposure.


This was an extremely successful project season, rich in diversity and fresh opportunities provided students with unequaled access to the arts and contact with artists. All three professional dance companies brought something entirely different to this region, communicating new and exciting messages about dance and culture and molding their perspectives. This student quote; “We learned about dance and music from around the world. We can see how we are different. That is good to see.” Lena Whitmore, Moscow, 5th Grade– gives a glimpse into how our goals of “reaching, teaching and enriching” through the arts widens 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.

Our Discover Dance project received rave reviews from all participants when our professional instructor, Judy Drown, worked directly with students. Our survey results provided the highest rankings for all areas of the questionnaire. We were especially well received when travelling for the first time to the town of Juliaetta to teach third and fourth grades. Kim Cirka, 4th grade teacher from Juliaetta said, “The kids were smiling, hot, and sweaty!” she continued, “They learned some great moves and had fun, but it gave some very self-conscious kids the experiences that they needed to be more confident.” In reflection, we will be looking to expand the influence of this program.

The diversity of genres and hands-on learning provides a dynamic that cannot be found in a classroom. “One student said to me, ‘I want to be that when I grow up!’” Cindy Latella, Lapwai Elementary. “Our students were exposed to costume, music, dance and the relationship among them,” “Your programs are great! Thank you for including our school for the past 20+ years!” Debbie Dawes, Potlatch 3rd Grade.