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make your day dance

Performance: Learning x 325

May 12th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Tags: ·······

Busy time of year… building toward the final performance. We’ve had small performances throughout the year — one class at a time, showing something at the end of a unit.  And we meant to have a performance last December, but it was stormed out. So the excitement is bubbling now.  Each day, students ask me, “Is it tonight?”

We’re in our sixth week of preparing for the End-of-Year Performance, with two weeks til the final day.  All 325 students will dance to show curricular content, steps, moves, skills, and ensemble work. First through fifth grade classes have had about 8 hours of rehearsal each, including the process of introducing a theme, exploring related dance elements, creating choreography, and beginning to put the whole piece together.  This is the point when every minute is needed in order to make it work, and it’s my work to make the sometimes-tedious job of rehearsal a rich and varied learning experience.

So much depends on the context though… and here’s my context:

  • a percentage of my students will miss the final performance because 1. their parents have too many jobs or small kids to get out in the evening, or 2. their parents don’t feel comfortable at an English-speaking event without interpretation (and the task of interpretating 10-12 different languages is daunting), or 3. their religion disapproves of dancing, music, and performing;
  • my school has a lot of  families who qualify for free- and reduced-price lunches.

These realities influence our performances some…

  • We have two performances, one at 2:00 & one at 6:30. Since the 2:00 show may be the only chance for some dancers, both are full performances [the final rehearsal is the day before]. At the 2:00 version, kids perform for each other, with some extra time for getting on-and-off the stage, in-and-out of the audience.  At the 6:30 show, dancers are in the “green room” [their classrooms], while families and friends fill the audience.
  • In order to prevent dances in the evening from being totally decimated by absences, classes pair for performing, with 50 kids onstage in the afternoon and whoever-comes at night.  Before I started this strategy, there was a  dance by 1st & 2nd graders that went from 25-strong in the afternoon to 4 in the evening.  They did a great job, but the fear factor was bigger than the fun factor!
  • Parts have to be pretty interchangeable, since we never know who’s going to be missing at night.  When I’m assigning parts, I don’t ask whether they’ll be there in the evening ’cause every one of them deserves to be a full participant at rehearsals.
  • We mostly don’t do costumes, which are anxiety-producing for the kids: “Ms. M, I don’t have a white shirt”… “Ms. M, is it OK if my white shirt has green and black stripes?!”… “Ms. M, should I wear my soccer shirt inside out?!”

So here we are, 2 weeks from performance. Each class has developed large chunks of choreography. Tomorrow we start putting it all together — two classes meet, share their choreography, and begin to mold their fragments into one dance.  And then, little by little, I’ll reduce my side-coaching to a minimum, until finally I’ll stand back and watch — and hope — in silence, as they dance their hearts out, with and without mistakes.

Have a different approach to performances? Different parameters? Different concerns? Do share!

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Deborah Robson

    I’d love to see the performances some time.

  • megrm

    If I have time, I might be able to videotape a couple of the pieces and put them on the school website. It would be good to have our creative work posted, in addition to cultural dances that are there. It’s on my list, but the logistics of getting it done are a little daunting… can’t just videotape the performance. I’ll need permission for each child to appear in a posted video, and I’ll have to arrange to videotape a separate performance in order to eliminate those without permission. After the regular performances, because I don’t want to exclude anyone who’s rehearsing for the real thing. But then, after the performances, we will have all lost a bit of our oomph. We’ll see…