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Ririe Woodbury Dance Company in Residence

West Ada School District

The purpose of this project was to bring a professional modern dance company to the West Ada School District for a week to build dance literacy.

Out of the four art disciplines (visual arts, music, theater, and dance) dance is the least taught/seen/written about/experienced art form in public schools.

The Ririe-Woodbury professional repertory company from Salt Lake City was selected. The RW dancers brought famous choreography and historical modern dance choreography with them for students, teachers, and the greater community to observe, discuss, reflect and be inspired by to create new work themselves.

The population directly benefiting from the project included the four arts focus elementary schools, Chief Joseph School, Christine Donnell School, Eagle Elementary School, Pioneer School, and the Middle and Senior High students at Idaho Fine Arts Academy.

The project served a need for West Ada students to participate in an activity that actively engaged them in a collaborative artistic process, dance. Participating students explored the needed skills to work together creatively to communicate through movement and structural choices – and then to analyze how the structure and final composition informs the artistic intent.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

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

Our goal for students was for them to experience the creative processes of dance and then to describe the kinesthetic properties in dance – bodily position, placement of weight, sense of tension or freedom in the muscles – retelling their experience of the movement through verbal discussion. Students learned how and practiced describing the images called up by dance through metaphors. Students were encouraged to venture their own opinions, and form meaning by drawing on their past experiences of motions, everyday life, and other subject areas. In this way, students learned about dance while sharpening their language skills and beginning to engage in the cross-disciplinary, cross experience thinking that builds understanding and sparks creativity.

Our project contributed to what students know and are able to do in the art of dance by following National Dance Standards:

• Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
• Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.
• Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
• Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning.
• Anchor Standard 9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.

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

The project coordinators developed this project to enrich dance literacy at the elementary student level. Activities were designed to foster the mission of teaching dance literacy including creative dance exploration classes and workshops for students, watching and responding in group discussion about dance, a professional dance performance by the Ririe-Woodbury company, student journal writing through a four square writing reflection process, as well as a teacher dance workshop and community master classes.

During the show I realized how abstract and different it was. As they performed it showed many elements of dance. I could tell that during the choreographic process they tried to make it very different because I’ve never seen like the many different directions on stage.” – Libby 8th grade, IFFA

During the week I learned lots of new ways to move through space. –Sophia 4th grade, Pioneer Elementary.
I learned that contrast is very important. They led us to build movement that was unexpected. -Cassie 8th grade, IFFA
I learned to use energy in new ways! – Sam, Christine Donnell Elementary

The element of space in dance has allowed our art teacher to further develop students understanding of positive and negative space concepts. – Principal, Chief Joseph Elementary


In this project, students gained an enduring understanding that choreographers use a variety of sources as inspiration and transform concepts and ideas into movement and choreography. Dance has both a spoken and a movement language.

A favorite moment was in teacher workshop seeing non-dancer teachers excited about wanting to add movement as a teaching tool for students to learn and share his/her learning with the class. I listened as a few teachers started to share with me how they could see using the movement activity to teach about atoms, and another teacher was excited to use in language arts. I could feel a positive, creative energy in the air. The teachers seemed rejuvenated. Even though it was 6:00 p.m. on a weekday.

Another favorite moment was seeing the older dance students at Idaho Fine Arts Academy challenged physically and mentally when the two guest Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company artists gave them a difficult multiple step movement problem to solve. There was no easy way or faking your way out except to do the work. For these talented dancers, I loved seeing them enjoy being given a new challenge in dance that made them find new ways to move, new spaces to dance in they have never, and expand their own dance choreographic language and tools.


What worked best in this residency was having the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company give lecture demonstration assemblies to all of the elementary schools with master classes following shortly after. Having two dance artists work with the older IFAA dance students to create movement for choreography was very successful.

Also successful was the IFAA choreography showing at the end of the week where an audience got to see the work and participate in a critical response session with the guest artists and dancers. This was successful in having non-dancers, other students, and community members get a glimpse of the process and thinking of dance artists, and participate in discussing dance as an art form.

The Eagle Elementary School of the Arts community movement class was successful with almost 30 attending. People young and old, male and female participated the whole time. The teacher workshop at Pioneer Elementary School of the Arts had a great turn out and it was nice to have all teachers attending participate and smile the whole time.

I think it is very successful when residencies are able to reach out to the community to experience along with the schools that get day to day artist contact. The dance concert was well received and many audience members stayed afterwards for the cookie social to meet and greet the dance company members, and talk about the dance art seen. The whole residency in whole was successful.

I wish I would have been more explicit with the RW company in letting them know the interview questions ahead of time. I think the post student interviews would have been better. RW also use Shape, Space, Energy, and Time for the dance elements, and I use Body-Energy-Space-Time (shape is part of Body).