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Learning Through Dance

Ballet Idaho

Making sure Idaho students have the opportunity to gain an understanding of the historically rich culture of dance is a priority at Ballet Idaho. Our education programs provide accessible arts programming that encourages students to express themselves creatively and helps them develop an appreciation for dance. Our arts education programs include:

 The Learning Through Dance (LTD) program places a professional dance educator in third grade classrooms for 10 weeks to teach students basic dance movements and dance terminology.

LTD curriculum gets students actively learning by integrating dance with language arts, math, and science. LTD activities promote confidence, creative interpretation, and communication skills that can help prepare students for future education and employment endeavors.

The Student Matinee program works in collaboration with Idaho school districts to bring students to abbreviated versions of performances held at the Velma V. Morrison Center for Performing Arts. These matinees introduce students to the joy and beauty of ballet as they experience a performance by a professional dance company in a fully produced theatrical setting. Teachers receive study guide materials to prepare and inform students about ballet terminology, history, and background information about the performance.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How do dancers work with space, time and energy to communicate artistic expression?

Students addressed this essential question using three anchor standards:

Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation. Students were encouraged to examine space, time, and energy as basic elements of dance by coming up with performance sequences in and through space with intentionality and focus.

Anchor Standard 5: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation. Students learned to connect the mind and body, and develop the body as an instrument for artistry and artistic expression by replicating body shapes, movement characteristics, and movement patterns in a dance sequence.

Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work. Students examined how intent, meaning, and artistic expression are communicated through the use of the body, by using dance terminology to select specific context cues from movement.

Our program curriculum is designed to establish artistic literacy and provide the best educational outcome and experience. Students gain a better understanding of how to interpret dance, what inspires choreographers, and linking these ideas through movement. Our programs focus on the expressive elements of dance, developing knowledge of movement terminology, and gaining the capability to reflect, critique, and connect dance to personal experience. The shared dance experience that our arts education programs help to make dance more familiar and something students can relate to throughout their lives.

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

Responses from LTD students when asked, “How can you communicate in a group without speaking?”

“I can use my body language”

“By using my hands”

“You can make movement with your body”

“By making hand mountains”

“You can use movements or gestures to communicate”

 

One LTD class post-test results:

25 of 36 students scored over 83% on LTD post-test

29 of 36 students correctly defined choreography as designing movements

36 of 36 students accurately drew a picture of themselves in second position

Students participating in the Student Matinee are given a post-performance survey asking them to reflect on what they experienced.

Responses from the Student Matinee participants:

 How did the dancers communicate during the performance?

“The performers used sign language to communicate with each other”

“They communicated by dance and expression. Everything they did like parts of the dancing told a story”

“With dance, the background, and the music they danced to”

 

Further Feedback from the Student Matinee audiences:

“Beautiful performance, the students loved it!” Cynthia Mann Elementary Teacher

“Ballet Idaho has done a wonderful job of supporting art education in the Treasure Valley thought their student matinee performances” – Boise School District employee

Impact

Our Learning Through Dance program reached approximately 560 students in ten schools, including Title I schools with high populations of low-income students.

Responses from Teachers regarding the LTD program:

“Our students benefit academically, physically, and emotionally from their participation in this program… The Learning Through Dance lessons each week encouraged them to interact socially and learn new material and skills together… this experience helped to create a better sense of community among our third graders.”-Collister Elementary Teacher

“I believe it gives children confidence and creativity they may not have known they had.” –Washington Elementary Teacher

“I’ve had parents tell me that their sons have enjoyed ballet a lot. I think it has influenced all the students to open their minds.”-Washington Elementary Teacher

 

Teachers observed the following student moments in the LTD program:

“Confidence to step up in front of the group and share”

“Self-control of some students who can be wiggly”

“Willing to do something for the experience even if they do not like it”

“Excitement could be felt when a dance move/step was finally understood…”

Our Student Matinee outreach program brought more than 3,454 Treasure Valley students to the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts to experience a professional ballet performance. In December 2017, Ballet Idaho presented The Nutcracker to 1,717 students and In April 2018, approximately 1,737 students from 23 Treasure Valley schools, including Title I schools and home school groups, experienced the magic of Swan Lake.

Reflection

Offering our arts education programs to Idaho schools helped to increase access to the arts and provided meaningful experiences to students. Our programs brought dance to new audiences, taught students dance movements, communication skills, and helped to foster confidence.

In 2017, our arts education programs made the art of dance more accessible to students and provided interactive and performance-based arts programming designed to foster confidence, creative thinking, and communication skills that will support students in future education and employment endeavors.

The Learning Through Dance program emphasized the importance of physical activity by incorporating regular dance practice designed to increase students’ range of motion, flexibility, and endurance. Students were active participants as they learned new dance moves and interacted with fellow classmates to create movement sequences. Students benefitted from performing for, and interacting with, Ballet Idaho’s Youth Ensemble and fellow students from area schools.

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