Who am I? I do not know. I am a student. I am a teacher. I am a friend, daughter, and sister. I’m not sure what else there is to say. I am not sure what I want to be when I grow up, where I want to live, or how I want to make a difference. I am a person, and a tiny speck in the universe.
As a child, my mom forced me into extracurricular after extracurricular- anything to keep me out of the house (I was a little hyper). When I was 8, after yet another outburst in school, my mom put me into theatre as an outlet for my antics. In shows like 42nd Street, Mame, and Footloose, I developed a relationship with dance. Unfortunately, it was a bad one. Though I excelled in tap, due to my natural sense of rhythm and my aptitude for jumping up and down, I lacked coordination. After age 12, the theatre workshop asked me to come on board as a staff member. My initial responsibilities were limited to attendance and note keeper. Through the years however, I was entrusted with more positions, including choreographer. This does not mean that I was choreographing large-scale numbers; Quite the contrary. Due to my clumsiness on the dance floor, I was entrusted the “Whimsical” numbers. These dances were filled with students like me- dance challenged. Instead of sashays or high kicks, my numbers were filled with moves such as ‘The Goon Conga’ and ‘Fanning the Flame’. While the dances were, at best, basic, the lessons were always greater than dance. The kids learned synchronization, memorization, and how to count out rhythms, and ended with a practiced and choreographed spectacle. They had a great time learning the dances, and I had a better time teaching them. Though my own relationship with dance is pretty shallow and unfeeling, I have always enjoyed watching those I teach develop their own style and relationship with dance.
Part 2: Shaping Whimsy, teaching lessons
Not everyone is a good dancer. However, as dance is such a varying number of things, everyone is bound to find strength in one area or another. For example, one who is awkward, tall, and clumsy may find difficulty in developing the poise required of a ballerina. However, that same person may have an innate or trained sense of rhythm. As tap requires a very different type of movement than ballet and relies heavily on a person’s ability to keep time, the struggling ballerina may find more comfort in the latter style of movement.
Comfort and enjoyment are essential to dance. The person dancing should enjoy it and feel confident in his or her abilities. This is not to say all dances should be bouncy numbers exuding joy. Each number has its own meaning and feeling, but the dancers should find joy in their movements, expressions, and the accomplishment of putting on a show. A dance should have dancers who are confident in their abilities and find enjoyment in their performance.
Dance is far more than a collection of movements thrown together to music. It is an opportunity to expose the youth of the world to life lessons. As dance has so many varying forms, one is bound to find a style in which they can excel, and one he or she enjoys. Therefore it is up to educators to discover genres of dance suitable to each student. In doing so, students are introduced to multiple skill sets, such as memorization, and wellness lessons, such as the importance of exercising one’s mind and body.
Part 3: Taking action in education
Many in the DC community suffer due to issues of employment and financial strain. This includes not only adults, but also children. As parents are forced to take on multiple jobs to make the ends meet, children often do not receive the attention they require.
Children in these situations need more than hugs. As parents are absent a great deal of the time, the children are not receiving the lessons on health and wellness that they need- Lessons such as the importance of dental hygiene or of a full night’s sleep. In response to situations such as these, and as dance is a means of teaching lessons of bodily and mental wellness, I plan to take action through movement.
I frequently volunteer my time at daycare centers. Aside from enjoying spending my afternoons reading The Berenstain Bears or giving out high fives and hugs, it is good preparation for the life I plan to spend in the classroom. As such, I have the opportunity to plan lessons and games, so long as my supervisors give the green light.
I have already learned dance is a positive way to keep the toddlers focused on me. Stomping and clapping, they are engaged in our afternoon activities. By blending messages of wellbeing, such as pantomiming brushing our teeth, and messages of fun, such as clapping and stretching, will get the children thinking about those things we’re pantomiming.
Of course, the dance alone is not enough. The movement allows the children to focus their attention on me, to follow my direction. Once I have that attention, however, and after the dance is completed, I have to follow it with a backup to my wellness dance moves. One way to do this is through asking questions: ‘Who brushed their teeth this morning? Who’s going to brush their teeth tonight after dinner?’ or ‘W3ho’s the best at sleeping here? Who likes to dream the most?’ and so on.
By supporting the physical movements of wellbeing with a facilitated discussion, I hope to promote healthy living in the classrooms. It is my intent to offer those children who do not get the attention or the lessons they need at home the basics of healthy living. By playing and dancing with these children, they will receive the specialized attention they require. By dancing to promote health, they are receiving the lessons they need.