Spanish dancing. It’s not the typical after-school activity for students at Moncure School or North Chatham Elementary. When Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana arrived at those two Chatham county schools this March as part of the Artists-in-Schools Initiative, Spanish dancing became THE ticket to eliciting smiles and big participation–and to unleashing the inner artist in students and teachers alike.
Teachers at Moncure School were so excited to see the immediate impact. Several teachers pulled our Executive Director aside to say they were thrilled to see students who were rarely engaged in anything–not even in PE–getting up, participating, and doing it all with amazing focus. You could see the confidence building as they began to catch on, performing the fancy footwork that flamenco dancing is known for.
These unique dance residencies introduced students to the multicultural art form of flamenco dancing while integrating social studies, ELA, dance, music, and Spanish language. Students at both schools were treated to a dance performance (Moncure: fourth through eighth graders; North Chatham: third through fifth graders) and student workshops (Moncure: fourth through sixth graders; North Chatham: fifth graders). The workshops provided hands-on experience with basic flamenco techniques, while also challenging students to flex their collaboration and creative problem-solving muscles as they navigated group choreography and how to communicate emotion through dance and rhythm.
Chatham Arts Council Executive Director Cheryl Chamblee was there to see it in action. “The little kids are in it from the beginning. Right away, they’re hooked. But the older ones–the fifth-graders on up to the eighth-graders–they have to check it out first. They’re watching with their arms crossed in front of them, looking at each other when something really dramatic is happening on stage, trying to figure out if this is cool or not. By the end, they’re all in. Their body language has changed. They’re laughing and participating from the audience. These artists win them over, and it’s so fun to see.”
At North Chatham, a teacher stopped Principal Carla Murray in the hall to ask how they were able to get this remarkable arts residency for their students. That answer is simple – it’s because of the amazing supporters we have in Chatham County. The Chatham Arts Council is able to bring professional artists into Chatham County schools because of our partners: Chatham County Schools, Chatham County, the North Carolina Arts Council, and a growing crew of businesses and individuals. It’s a collaboration that is incredibly worthwhile, exposing students to artistic forms that they may not otherwise encounter. For many, the arts are an incredible outlet where children can flourish and feel successful.
A HUGE thank you to our sponsors for powering this initiative in these two schools. The Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana Spanish dance residency at Moncure School was powered by the Bartlett-Dasher-Vega Families, remembering Enrique Vega. The residency at North Chatham Elementary was powered by Dorrie Casey and Archie Purcell. Special thanks also to Opus Financial Advisors.