Just before winter break, Raleigh-based modern dance company Black Box Dance Theatre spent three days with fourth-grade students in high energy dance workshops and performances. Students buzzed with excitement about the experience–and about the upcoming break (which allowed for some creative and colorful outfits!).
Class Workshops: Moving and Making with History in Mind
The company’s professional teaching artists and dancers–Natalie, Alfredo, and Kate–mixed dance with history by leading fourth-graders in collaborative choreography centered around the Revolutionary War.
But first, any good dancer knows that warming up the body is essential! The workshop started with the “Brain Dance,” movements designed to warm up the body and activate the mind.
Students had fun creating and naming movements after their friends to contribute their own spin to the warm-up sequence.
Alfredo, Kate, and Natalie guided students as they connected movement tenets to larger concepts about self-awareness and individual body control.
“How does your body feel now compared to ten minutes ago?” Natalie asked.
“Good! Awake! Woooo!” shouted various fourth-graders in response.
Then, it was time for some partner work and improvisation.
Students explored how well they could communicate through movement, shaping their bodies around each other without using words.
“We had like a psychic link!” one student reflected after the shapes session.
Once the students were all warmed up and used to collaborating, it was time to get down to the business of history and dance.
Students matched movements to historical facts, turning a Revolutionary War rap into a collaborative dance.
Over the next two days, the room was full of creative energy as students learned the large group dance movements–and worked together in small groups to choreograph their own sequences for the final performance.
In a closing discussion at the end of two days of Revolutionary War dance work, Natalie (shown, with students, above) asked students to think about what “revolution” really means: change. She opened up the floor–inviting students to share what they’d like to change. Responses ranged from wishing for a world without homework to envisioning environmentally friendly practices everywhere.
“You do have power in your life. If things aren’t going how they should, you could be the person to start the change in your life,” Natalie said.
The Performance: Energy and Excitement to the Fullest
The residency culminated in a spectacular collaborative performance for the second- and fourth-graders. The professional dancers and the fourth graders showed their moves–and it came with a good dose of humor, as it was pajama day at school!
To open, the stage came alive with high energy dance numbers from Black Box’s professional dance ensemble.
Students’ jaws dropped and eyes lit up as they watched the dancers jump, turn, and lift each other–using their dance vocabulary to communicate.
Up next, it was the fourth-graders’ turn to share all they’d learned!
All of fourth grade performed collective choreography for the first part of the Revolutionary War dance and rap.
Then, each class got a turn in the spotlight–dancing their own choreography to sections of the rap.
To close, Alfredo led a final performance, created in honor of Dia de los Muertos. The piece included audience participation, as kids learned movements in the moment to collaborate with the dancers on and off the stage.
The event ended with a Q&A session, where curious minds pondered questions from the practical to the hilarious. Why were the dancers barefoot? “We like to feel connected to the Earth!” Alfredo answered. Why was the only male dancer bald? Only giggles ensued as a response for this one.
Lead teaching artist Natalie Morton praised the “full participation and undeniable excitement coming from every fourth-grader” during the residency. “Especially during the performance!!”
During this residency, dance mixed with history, encouraging the kids to think about and make good changes in their lives and the world. And, it seems that the fourth graders at Pittsboro Elementary are up for the challenge!
When all was said and done, one enthusiastic fourth-grader asked: “Can we please do this again next year?”
The residency at Pittsboro Elementary was sponsored by the Lily McCoy Voller Stargazer Fund. This residency is part of the Chatham Arts Council’s Artists-in-Schools Initiative.
Arts for Resilient Kids programming is made possible by partnerships with Chatham County Schools, Chatham County, the North Carolina Arts Council, and many individual, foundation, and business donors. If you feel inspired to help us educate kids through the arts, click here to donate.