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make your day dance

Why Dance Matters: it builds self & community

April 25th, 2010 · 5 Comments · Tags: ·

Each year my 5th graders build a dance together before graduating.  It’s a process fraught with difficulties , but the end result is a real high:  they come together to share their work.

One year, my 5th graders performed a medley of dances, which included a dance from every continent.  Most were dances I taught them, but also included were Samuel’s suggestion of a bottle dance from Mexico, a Chinese dance created from sketches drawn by Jack and his Chinese-born mother, and a penguin dance representing Antarctica that the class choreographed together.  After the performance, I asked them, “What was your favorite part about rehearsing and performing World Geography & what did you learn?”  Several themes ran through their journal responses:

  • the delight they took in working together,
  • the joy of sharing their dancing with an audience,
  • what they learned about themselves & each other by working together.

Here are their voices (and their own spelling!):

My favorite part was the Chinese dance because everybody was clapping. My other favorite part was Greensleeves because everybody was having fun. I like the whole dance because everybody know what to do.

I learned that I can have fun with other people. I also learned to not be shy when people are watching you. I also learned that when people are watching you, it is fun. Finally I learned that people can be impross about you.

My favorite part is when we do the Penguin Dance because everybody gets to be in it! I also like it because it makes us all work together and makes other laugh! Everyone gets to show their feelings!

I learned that I have to express my feelings and get with the music. The most important thing is that I get to have fun! Also, I learned that hard work really pays off. Dance is really fun and not that hard if you practice. That is what I learned!

My favorite part of the geography dance is that I got to dance with my classmates. This performance made me more confident in showing how good I perform.

My favorite part is the whole thing. Why the whole thing is my favorite part is that we were all involved in it. Also it looked like we were having fun and we did have fun. And the reason is that we all had something to do we had parts to do.

My favorite part was the penguin dance. I say this because it was a part where you could act silly. Also because acting like penguins was amazingly fun. Finally, because when we get to push each other I think the audience was amazed.

The most important thing I learned was to have energy. I say this because all the dances use energy. It is boring if you don’t use energy. Also it makes the dance way more fun. That’s why energy is important.

My favorite part is the penguins because I really enjoyed making the little kids happy. I liked sliding across so I could really make it seem like I am actually a real penguin. It made me feel like I was a real penguin. It made me have more fun.

The most important thing I learned in dance this year is to be confident, to not be shy, because it is what I wanted to do and it made lots of people laugh and happy and I had fun and that’s what I learned in dance this year.

My favorite part was High Life. When we had to shake our hips and everything. Also because it was really fun rehearsing because there were laughs and it was just great to feel happy.

My favorite part was actually seeing the improvement. In the rehearsal, it was like we were winging it but in the actual performance we were outstanding. It’s really amazing how it was so different. In the beginning, it was messy and disorganized. But in our real performance, it was very organized and you can see that we still had fun.

I learned that even small things make a difference. That even one person missing can change a chance. I learned that if I wasn’t at the performance, others would suffer.

The most important thing that I learned about myself this year was that dance is fun if you put your own personality into the dance. Also to let other people put their personality into the dance. Also I learned that dance is my passion. I love to dance.

The most important thing I learned was keep trying. Also if you want to do good at something take your time. I learned that the hard way. When you dance, your soul is lifted in the air.

I think that the dances I did this year showed some of my emotions in them. That I could talk through dance. And that I could not just throw stuff in that would look tore up. I had to put feeling in it. And lots and lots of emotions.

I’ve learned that you don’t have to be shy or anything. You can do whatever you want in dance. You can express your feelings in not just one way but a lot more! And you can tell that you’ve changed because you’re not scared or shy to show what you can do! It’s a really good feeling to know that I changed.

The most important part about dance that I found about myself is that I am more energetic. Also I’m more creative. My third reason is that dance made me more nice to people. Another reason is it made me think more about my childhood.

What I like in “World Geography” was that everybody was smiling. The most important thing I learned in dance this year is that dance is all about fun.

I learned that there are all kinds of dances like I thought their were not any dances from Asia, Europe, and all the other contents. I learned a lot of dances. I also learned how to walk like a penguin.

When I did the penguin dance it showed that I acted silly. Also it showed that I enjoy comedy. The most important thing I leaned in dance is that I can act serious. Also that I can have fun while acting serious. Also I learned that dance isn’t just ballet it is all sorts of stuff.

The most important thing I learned about myself was that I can express my feelings in other ways except words. I now know that I can express my feelings in body parts, moves, or dancing.

The most important thing I learned about myself in Dance this year was that I was fully able to have fun just by dancing with others in community. I was then able to blend in with everyone else in the rhythm, the dance, yet able to stand out to myself at the same time. That, I learned helped shed my meekness, and encourage fun into me while performing. Perhaps it is the happy, and fast moves with others helped me learn to enjoy myself, knowing that I am not alone, but still, I was singled by my differences. Because of that, I am presently in dance able to cherish the time(s) and promote my enjoyment to new/different dances unfamiliar to me. All in all, I learned through/in Dance this year to let go, and enjoy myself fully.

Join the discussion about Why Dance Matters here & here.

5 Comments so far ↓

  • Mary

    Love all of these comments! Particularly: Samuel “small things make a difference” Whoa- what a big lesson there! And Ellen – “my favorite part was the whole thing!”

    It’s a great thing you’re doing Meg. If I had had such good experiences with dancing when I was young, I wonder where I’d be now. At least I get to have them as an adult. These kids are learning essential lessons at a young age – to move with energy, confidence and that it’s good to work together and have fun. Bravo!

  • megrm

    Thanks for the good cheer, Mary… the “small things make a difference” comment from Samuel is especially meaningful if you know Samuel!

  • Kathleen Kingsley

    Great student reflections! Their words are so telling. …”shed my meekness”. That is priceless. The power of dance is very great.


  • megrm

    Two of my favorites are Velvet (“When you dance, your soul is lifted in the air”) and Angel (“it made me think more about my childhood”). Angel was a big, tough 11-year-old boy at the time, already playing with protecting identity & territory on a daily basis.

  • Randy Barron

    At the end of a short Classroom Choreography residency in Arizona, I asked the students to reflect in writing on their experiences making dances about poetry.

    One of my 5th grade students, (a boy!), said on his closing reflection, “I learned that dance is not just movement, it’s a way of life.” Those words did not pass my lips during the four days; that was his own interpretation.

    A 5th grade girl, painfully shy, not well accepted among her classmates, and barely able to write simple sentences, said this about her experience: “I lerned to overcom my Fears.” (sic) Her teachers, the school staff, and I were all in tears when we read this. Dance opened a door for her that might not have been unlocked for years, if at all.

    We MUST get dance to ALL children. You are doing a fabulous job – best of luck to you.