As Superintendent Michael Watkins states, “Through arts in education, students develop the creative thinking and problem solving skills that are crucial to successful life and work in the 21st century.”
It is in this spirit that the Santa Cruz County Office of Education in collaboration with Tandy Beal and Company’s ArtSmart brings “Dance Around the World” to our county’s schools during this school year 2016-17. “Dance Around the World” is an award-winning creative movement residency being led by master dance and performing arts teachers including Paula Bliss, Saki Tamao, Micha Scott, and Jane Real. These master teachers are also offering professional development workshops for educators to help integrate movement-based learning tools in the classroom. The curricular connection is through movement; students can physically experience abstract concepts such as spatial relationships and close observation such as mirroring the movements of another.
This community partnership engages young people and helps broaden their perspectives and their dreams for themselves. Tandy Beal states that in our collaboration, “We strive to support students in making imaginative choices in life and bring joy to their lives through the Arts.”
Each class, in collaboration with the teaching artist/dancer, selects a specific country to explore and study. The children at one school presented dances about Italy, China, Jamaica, and Polynesia. Students explore creative movement, language, geography, history and the culture of the chosen country. Each student receives a small booklet called a “Passport to the World.” This passport supports the classroom teacher in helping students link the kinesthetic, problem-solving and imaginative work to academic studies. A guest world dance teacher, in traditional costume, comes to each classroom so that students can experience their special style of movement from that part of the world. The dancer also answers questions about the culture they are sharing.
“Dance Around the World” focuses on developing the 4 C’s: Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. Students in each classroom develop teamwork by working collaboratively on both their country and cultural studies as well as their dance pieces. The teaching artists use the Common Core Physical Education and Visual and Performing Arts State Standards to create lessons that offer both creative and critical thinking opportunities. Students are involved in sharing their thoughts, ideas, questions, problems and solutions as they communicate about their dances and cultural studies. By engaging students in these in-depth studies that involve both their mental and physical intellect, students learn to respect the diversity, beauty, and magnificence of other cultural traditions and art forms.
“Dance Around the World” culminates in a final performance at the school. The University of California, Santa Cruz, will also be collaborating to provide space for an upcoming spring performance. In these performances, students share the stage with local world dancers so that the audience as well as the performers can see the range and beauty of the various world cultures.
Tandy Beal and Company is also presenting several Spring Concerts in Circus, Music and Dance at the Mello Center and at various schools throughout the county. Additionally, they are offering a public Family Concert Series from February through April in downtown Santa Cruz that features dancers and musicians including Magic Carpet World Dance, KaHon Latin Percussion Ensemble, and The Venezuelan Music Project.
All photos by photographer Bill Lovejoy. Thank you for allowing their use!