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Summer Performance Camps

TRICA: Treasure Valley Institute for Children's Arts

To revive a sense of hope and joy among families through radically positive and unforgettable early exposure to the arts, TRICA hosted indoor Summer Dance Camps, bringing in five world-class instructors from across the United States and Mexico. TRICA welcomed up to 20 students Ages 3-12 per camp, serving 220 children and their families over 5 weeks in July and August. Gifted dance instructors Tracy Straus, NY, Dufftin Garcia, NY, Gerald Watson, NM, Coleen Macomber, CO, and Corrine Nagata, CA converged for a power-packed Inaugural Summer in TRICA?s newly restored 12,000 sq ft Baroque-Romanesque cathedral-turned-arts institute a block off Hyde Park in Boise. With help from Arts Idaho, TRICA hired musicians Todd Dunnigan, Chad Spears, David Hartshough, and Jun Campion to accompany the dance sessions. Each week concluded with a performance for parents and grandparents, many of whom saw their student in a new light as they stood in the restored cathedral for the first time.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How does dance deepen our understanding of ourselves, other knowledge, and events around us?

Students were taught to recognize and name the emotions they experience while watching, improvising, or performing dance. By exploring personal meaning in the movements, students learn to synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experience to make art. They were asked to relate a dance experience to a familiar experience (DA:Cn10.1.1a). Children were encouraged to wonder, thinking about what they see, feel, and hear and express this wonder through movement (DA:Cn10.1.2b) We used our own unique first names to inspire inventive choreography. Combining dance and visual art we imagined ourselves as magnificent sculptures, frozen and posed at the Louvre in Paris; parents were invited to come up and wander this strange live sculpture court. What difference does it make for children to be in person, socially and energetically connected and in motion under the direction of a loving outstanding educator and responsive live musician? The power of a group is more powerful than being alone. It makes us feel human to be working as a team, and to perform, hearts thumping, for a live audience. At the end of each week students experienced the camp tradition of being handed a fresh bouquet by loved ones to celebrate a performance well done.

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

I’m eight. My little brother is six. We got dropped off for summer camp at a big building that looks sort of like a castle. We met a teacher from New York City named Dufftin who smiles a lot, makes funny noises when he teaches, and can REALLY DANCE. He made us feel relaxed. There was a musician named Chad who was very quiet but his keyboard was NOT. Chad played the whole time we danced. He stopped playing when we stopped dancing. When he started playing, we knew to start dancing! With kids we didn’t know, we made up a dance together (DA:Cr1.1) based on a theme that we would perform at the end of the week. We learned the history of Jazz music, what Salsa is. I learned about history and famous people like Jellyroll Morton and Celia Cruz (DA:Pr5.1). I started to understand what was going on in society when this kind of music and these dance steps were first performed (DA:Cn11.1). We practiced dance steps with games and the teacher wanted to see what he called “our personal best” (DA:Cr1.1). I was surprised that in the game we danced better than normal. At home, we would show our dance steps our parents (DA:Pr6.1). On the last day of camp, families and friends came to the performance (DA:Pr6.1).

Impact

“I saw in my son increased confidence, renewed love of dance, and in seeing himself as a present and future dancer.”

“I tell everyone about it! I struggle to find value in traditional dance recitals. For me, the traditional dance programs’ instruction seems to be replaced with recital preparation. I much prefer TRICA’s approach to a final performance walking me through my child’s experience. I am able to see my son’s unique style and personality through his expression of dance.”

“These camps are wonderful exposure to the arts–a lovely way to explore, play, and develop a deep, lasting appreciation of dance/performance.”

“The passion of the leaders and the professionalism of the guest instructor really shines through.”

?My child was reticent to perform in the performance at the beginning of the week. She changed her mind by the end of the week. I think their accepting approach gave her space to engage on her comfort level. I think she learned that she can trust and advocate for herself and that adults will listen to her.”

Reflection

Our team observed that 2 hours IS an appropriate block of time for the type of dance instruction we do at TRICA. We reflected that the out-of-town instructors energized the trainees and delivered a breath of fresh air for children, families and trainees. The National Dance Institute-trained guest master instructors had an inspiring impact on our staff as well because they could share alternative approaches to operations and proven ways of doing things in their home cities. It’s seemingly a small thing, but we validated yet again how powerful it is to have all the children wearing a well-fitting matching logo t-shirt when it’s time to perform all together as a “company.” A huge opportunity we identified was to begin offering camps with a dual focus of Visual Arts and Dance. (For example, we observed that TRICA was perhaps missing out on campers ages 8+ of all genders who assumed dance wasn’t for them or might lack the body confidence to attend a “dance camp” but COULD be persuaded to sign up for “Arts Camp.” We believe many of these children will be pulled in to trying dance through the Visual Arts component and vice versa. Leaning in to Visual Arts in 2022 and future years would open the thrilling prospect of engaging the finest Idaho-based visual art educators for limited engagements in the summertime.

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