by Natalie Ashby
In today’s climate it is essential that young people have the means to speak their mind through diverse modes of communication. I have witnessed the sense of empowerment that students experience when they have a performative space, a stage, studio or podium, on which to discover, write, rehearse, perform and speak their truth. When dance and writing are partnered, students integrate these modes of communication in unique processes of inquiry, exploration and sense-making.
On January 15th, Katrina Deans and I led a Practitioner Exchange at Luna Dance where we discussed the intersections between dance and writing. We were joined virtually by Amanda Chiado, a dance teaching artist from Hollister, CA and by Luna staff, Deborah Karp and Aiano Nakagawa.
Throughout the hour and a half discussion, our conversation meandered from abstract discussion of why writing and dance to concrete discussion of strategies and ideas for our classrooms.
Through our conversation we realized that a partnership between writing and dance offers collaborative opportunities for students and processes of mutual sense-making. We discussed how a student might move to a poem written by another student, or witness a student’s movement and draft a written interpretation of meaning. Such processes create rich source material for students to pull from when they are “stuck” in either the writing or the choreographic process. They also provide opportunities for students to realize that the meaning we make of movement or writing is subjective, and that meaning can change when viewed through a different lens, whether choreographic or literary.
Writing and dance also offer potential for integrating curricular and thematic material. We discussed our own experiences integrating writing, curricular content and dance. When Katrina learned that all of the students in one of her studio classes were studying the solar system, she used this content as source material for a dance piece that incorporated students’ written work. She encourages her older students to speak their truth by writing and then incorporating the writing in movement compositions. Amanda is exploring weather with her Kindergarteners through poetic compositions and movement. I am contemplating how my third graders can explore our Graduate Profile learning traits though movement and writing.
The Practitioner Exchange was an informative and inspiring platform to connect with colleagues who have similar pedagogical interests but work in different environments. As we each shared our ideas and expertise, we were able to collaborate, brainstorm and learn from one another’s diverse experiences. As a classroom teacher, sharing ideas with dance teaching artists helped me see new opportunities for writing and dance that I would not have discovered from my perspective in the classroom. I feel invigorated and ready with plans for exploring embodied writing and movement with my third graders.