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Youthreach and Discover Dance

Festival Dance and Performing Arts Association

Festival Dance sponsored four Youthreach (outreach educational programs) by professional dance companies Ballet Idaho and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble for 1,430 students from 13 Idaho schools (six  Moscow elementary schools and elementary schools in Potlatch, Genesee, Deary, Troy, Kendrick/Juliaetta, Lapwai,(Nez Perve Reservation), and the Coeur d’Alene Tribal School in Tensed.)  Each program included study guides with discussion questions, narratives, performances, audience participation and question sessions with the artists.

Festival Dance also taught 24 Discover Dance in-school classes in McDonald and Russell Elementary Schools in Moscow; Potlatch Elementary School, and Lapwai Elementary School. These classes are taught for 3rd and 4th grades in a series of three illustrating how dance changes through history, with one class in African Dance; one class in jazz Dance and one class in Hip Hop. Classes are coordinated with physical education or movement teachers.

Project was chosen to expand awareness, appreciation and understanding of the art of dance and how dance is understood, (essential question); to widen horizons of students from mainly rural schools; and to educate students about performing arts and develop future audiences and a life long love of the arts.


The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

Essential Question: Under Dance/Responding – “How is a dance understood” :.

What we wanted students to learn::

DA: Re 7.1.3b Demonstrate and explain how one dance genre is different from another, or how one cultural movement practice is different from another.
DA: Re 7.1.4b Demonstrate and explain how dance styles differ within a genre or within a cultural movement practice

DA: Re7.15a 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:

  • 1) Youthreach program by Ballet Idaho: Discuss the genre of ballet and its different forms: classical, romantic and contemporary. Tell how dance can tell a story and express emotion.
    2) Youthreach programs by Cleo Parker Robinson: Discuss hip hop, its place in American culture and its roots in African dance, and different styles of hip hop such as poppin and house dance. How did the the demonstration of Mardi Gras dance show roots in African culture. Why is Hip Hop called a “social dance.”
  • Discover Dance classes: Discuss the concepts of rhythm, syncopation and improvisation in African, Jazz and Hip Hop. What did you learn about how dance changes with time and culture?

All programs:  How does dance expresses emotion, tells stories, and bring people together? What is involved in being a professional dancer. How are dance performances enjoyable and educational.


Quotes from student’s letters and class discussions tell of specific program learning and the impact of a live dance performance. Quotes from students: “that performance spoke life to me,” and “here we were all amazed and inspired.” These remote rural students had the unique opportunity to interact with these diverse, talented professional artists.

Quotes from Ballet Idaho Youthreach Program

“I especially liked the part when we came on stage and did some dance moves. I thought you did a great job in explaining how to position your body to make those really cool actions!” – Student, St. Mary’s School, 4th Grade

“Thank you for teaching us the history and art of ballet. And the moves like plie, sous-sus, and releve.” – Student, Potlatch Elementary, 3rd Grade

From Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Youthreach Program

“Thanks for that amazing performance. That performance spoke life to me. I liked when the kids and adults got to dance.” – Student, Genesee Elementary, 5th grade

“I loved how the dancers can move fast, or slow, depending on the beat of the music. I also liked how the dances were like a story.” – Student, Genesee Elementary, 5th grade

“Thank you for coming to our school! Here we were all amazed and inspired and we loved how you taught us and showed us how to express our feelings and who we are. I learned a lot.” – Student, Lapwai Elementary, 3rd grade

“Hip Hop dancing is a way to communicate. It is fun. Dancing is social.” – Student, Lapwai Elementary, 2nd grade



This program was an overall great success. We met our goal of opening windows and building bridges through the arts and helped thousands of students better understand dance as a performance art  and as social movements. Students from 13 schools, mainly in communities of 1,000 or less, and two on tribal reservations experienced programs that would be considered outstanding even in large metropolitan areas. Ballet Idaho and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble present very different dance styles and illustrated the wide range of possibilities in dance, but also showed the students the similarities in joy of movement; commitment to excellence; and dance as a means of expression and communication.. Both companies excelled at developing a rapport with the students. I am sure students will long remember coming on stage and learning lifts from Ballet Idaho dancers, and learning hip hop steps from CPR dancers.

We were pleased to hear from a teacher in Juliaetta, “Keep these performances coming – our students need this cultural exposure.”. And from Potlatch Elementary School: The performance was positive, interactive, and memorable.” – Megan Weaver. Teacher evaluations and continued participation in this program attest to its impact and importance.