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Youth Outreach

Festival Dance & Performing Arts

Opening Windows and Building Bridges through the Arts. Festival Dance believes in the power of the arts to inspire, educate, and enrich the lives of students in our region who would not otherwise have opportunities to experience and learn from talented and culturally diverse dance companies and artists. Through this project students attended 4 Youthreach programs presented by professional dance companies: Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre, from Portland, and Kaha:wi Dance Theatre from Toronto. Each program included study guides, narration, performance, audience participation and a question session with the artists. Idaho schools taking part were from Moscow, Potlatch, Troy, Genesee and Lapwai. Rejoice’s program included Afro-Brazilian dance and music, hip hop, and a modern dance inspired by and danced to poetry by Maya Angelou. Kaha:wi Dance Theatre presented traditional indigenous dance from the Iroquois nation and modern dance drawn from First Nation cultures. 21 Discover Dance master classes were taught by Colleen Bialas, faculty members of the UI Dance Program and Festival Dance Academy. Classes taught in a series of 3 covered African Dance, Jazz and Hip Hop, illustrating the cultural connections and evolution of dance styles through time and place. 2 schools in Moscow and Lapwai Elementary took part.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

Essential Question from Dance Discipline: Responding: How is a dance understood?

Learning outcomes identified in grant proposal:
1) Demonstrate and explain how one dance genre is different from another or how one cultural movement is different from another.
2) Demonstrate and explain how dance styles differ within a genre or within a cultural movement practice.
3) Find meaning or artistic intent from the patterns of movement in a dance work.
These outcomes were communicated to the participating artists prior to the programs, and through study guides to all participating educators.
Success was assessed through:
1) Teacher written evaluations: See below
3) Documentation through videotape of one class discussion after each Youthreach program: See video attached.
4) Students’ written responses and discussions after Youthreach programs. See student responses.
TEACHER ASSESSMENTS: The following questions were on the evaluation form distributed to teachers attending Youthreach programs. Teachers evaluated as: Not covered; Partially covered; and Well covered. Teachers also wrote comments about the value of these programs for their students.
* Students obtained understanding of the role of dance in Native American culture. 3% somewhat met, 97% well met.
* Students learned how dance and movement can communicate meaning and emotion. 27% somewhat met, 73% well met.
* Students learned about different styles of dance within Native American culture. 19% somewhat met, 81% well met.
* The program helped students appreciate and understand another culture. 2% somewhat 98% well met.

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

For written work students were asked:
What was unique or memorable in the dance program you attended?
What helped you understand the meanings of the dance works you saw?
What did you learn about the cultures represented and how they differ from each other?
Sample responses:
“Amazing. Awesome, Unbelievable. Thank you. I learned about African culture and about African cultural instruments.”
“Thank you for putting on an awesome show. I learned that African Americans changed America with their dances, music and AWESOMENESS.”
“Thank you so much for showing us and teaching us about dancing in different cultures.”
In class discussions that were documented covering questions above, some student comments were:
“One reason it was important to see this program… because we need to appreciate the arts so arts can survive.”
“Art leaves room for new interpretations and ideas.”
“We saw that a way of preserving cultures is through performances and sharing.”
“We can learn not always from books, but from experience outside the classroom.”

Impact

Through this project 2,072 students from 10 different schools in 5 different communities experienced educational and enriching professional dance programs and had contact with professional artists, affording them opportunities to learn about the wide and rich diversity of the art of dance, how dance can be understood and how it relates to culture and values. Except for Moscow, all the communities are very underserved in the arts due to remote location, financial inadequacies and small population. These are ongoing programs with students from grades 3 through 6 attending one program each year, so that in four years students are exposed to four different cultures and genres of dance.
Teachers say:
“My students are from a struggling population. The short but edifying details were just enough to help the students glimpse and understand meanings. The students were able to truly feel the value – priceless.” Jennifer Calvert, Moscow High School
“My students learned about different types of dances and how they communicate stories.” Landon Gossack, Potlatch Elementary
“Our students are mainly Native American and the performance gave them insight into other native communities. Students noticed similarities and differences. They loved it!” Mrs. Arthur, Lapwai Elementary.
“This performance exposed our students to a form of art that they may not have seen or will see in their young lives.” Debbie Dawes, Potlatch Elementary

Reflection

This was an extremely successful project, rich in diversity and opportunities to provide our area students with unequaled access to the arts and contact with the artists. Kaha:wi was perhaps the most successful because the performers were able to relate so well to their student audiences. It was interesting and exciting to see that the same Kaha:wi program worked so well in Moscow with the Palouse area students, who sadly have little exposure to the indigenous cultures that can be found in our region, and at Lapwai Elementary School with Nez Perce students who grow up in the culture, many dancing at pow wows from the time they can walk. For us this illustrated the universality of the art of dance and the ability to communicate across cultural lines.
We were very pleased at the first-time success of videotaping post-program class discussions to document evidence of learning. Previously we did exit interviews in the lobby after each program. But these were hastily done because of the need for students to return to classes. A longer time period in a classroom enabled more in-depth, quality discussion. We will continue this practice, which also gives us a chance to develop partnerships with the teachers involved.
As always, having students come on stage and learn parts of dance, and having students be able to ask questions and talk with the artists are extremely valuable in involving students in the programs and giving them experiences that they remember long after the program.

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