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make your day dance

A great resource: Bad Wolf Press

June 27th, 2011 · 3 Comments · Tags: ···

It’s great to find a resource that really helps!

Every March I have to start pulling together 6 or 7 dances for an end-of-year performance. Every school has its own schedule and rhythm for performance — based on student demographics, the focus of the school, the parent population, logistics, and money — so I operate with some givens:

  • Our community — students, parents, staff — prefer one end-of-year performance. During the year, some classes do low-key performances for staff-and-students at Monday morning assemblies, but parents are only invited in June (each of our other community/evening events focuses on a different content area: Curriculum Night, Math Night, Literacy Night, Young Authors Day…). So our end-of-year performance is the one chance to showcase all 380 students as well as what the dance program has to offer — movement skills, cultural dances, curriculum-related choroegraphy, and a lot of creative input, collaboration and ownership from the kids.
  • Attendance at evening events is healthy. Healthy means the percentage of kids that attend at night has increased dramatically over the years: at the primary level, it’s gone from 5% to 60%; at the intermediate level, it’s gone from 20% to 90%.
  • But it’s also unpredictable: I never know quite which student will or won’t come at night, so I can’t give anyone a starring role. I can’t even do the star-with-understudy thing, cause both star and understudy might both be no-shows!
  • The performances need to be no more than 75 minutes long. [We actually have 2 performances — one in the afternoon, when students perform for each other, so everyone has a chance to perform, and one at night — when family-and-friends are in the audience.] They need to be short for the sake of the kid-audience in the afternoon, the parents-wh0-want-to-go-home at night, and teachers-who-are-supervising-dancers-back-in-the-classroom while parents fill the audience. So go ahead, do the numbers… each of 14 classes can do a 4-dance, with a 1-minute transition between dances (and I have to come up with structures for 14 different dances!) OR each of 7 grade levels can do an 8 or 10-minute dance. I opt for the latter, so parents can see their own child on stage for more time! But of course, that’s more kids on stage, especially during the afternoon performance: 50-60 at a time, 2 classes per grade level. At night, when some kids don’t come, the numbers onstage are just about right.
  • There’s no funding. Our population is low-income, we don’t have parent volunteers, we don’t have a PTA, and our entire school budget goes toward improving academic achievement, because our kids are always just barely making it. That means I use the materials I have. The most I ever do for costumes is to ask the kids to maybe wear a black or colorful t-shirt if they have one.

So in March, I need to think up 7 dance structures for 50 kids each, with each grade-level dance showcasing a different aspect of the dance program and no starring roles. This year, as the task was looming, I got a tip from Krista Carreiro, a hugely ambitious and dedicated performing-arts-specialist colleague who does musicals. I’ve never done a musical.

She suggested the Bad Wolf Press as a great resource.

I was skeptical. “I don’t play piano! How can I accompany them?”

“I don’t either! But with the Bad Wolf Press scripts, you get a CD of the songs — both with and without the voices, so you can practice with the voices & perform the instrumental version.”

Hmmm. I checked out the website. Lots of 30-minute, curriculum-related scripts. Samples of the songs on the website. Affordable!

I chose Character Matters and Pirates from Grammar Island — because we’re always struggling to find more time for social skills instruction, and we have so many English-language-learning kids. And because there’s a discount if you buy two! My principal agreed to the expenditure.

And we launched into a musical adventure… I’ll follow up with more details about how we did it. But for now, suffice it to say, it was a huge success. The kids loved it! The principal & staff were thrilled. Parents were enthusiastic. It lightened my load, and I enjoyed it — and I’ve already got ideas about how to do it better next time!

Check it out — and in the meantime, I’d be happy to hear about the performance paradigm at your school!

3 Comments so far ↓

  • Rachel

    Because our school is a magnet school, most of my day is spent teaching electives that change each quarter. At the end of the 1st and 3rd quarters we have “Elective Shares” during the school day – any elective can sign up to share what they’ve learned however they see fit. Obviously my kids dance, but other groups have done skits, created powerpoints or videos, etc. At the end of 2nd and 4th quarters we have evening performances – the “Holiday Concert” in December and “Arts Pleasure” in May. In addition to being a performance venue, Arts Pleasure also serves as our annual arts department fundraiser – we sell pizza, ice cream, fruit bowls, etc and also do art projects, face painting… you get the idea.

  • megrm

    Sounds like an interesting schedule! Is this at the elementary level? In my limited experience, magnet schools are so much more up-front about organizing their arts outreach events. One of my colleagues from a magnet school has a performance every month — for a different grade level. Hers is a different-kind-of-busy schedule! But I’m glad you mentioned the fundraising aspect of your Arts Pleasure event — for the 1st time this year, I started contemplating (not doing yet — just contemplating) finding ways to raise funds from our end-of-year performance, budgets being what they are now! I was thinking of reproducing & selling DVDs of the event, but it’ll take a bit of research & a lot of busy-ness in June… Thanks for chiming in!

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