Micaela is a bright first-grader at International Community School in East Oakland with dark curly hair tied in a high side ponytail decorated with a colorful ribbon. When I first met her in the Fall, she had a difficult time interacting in the dance class. She would stand still, off to the side while other students danced through the room. Her teachers’ told me that they had recommended an IEP, Individualized Educational Program, to help her get the support they imagined she needed.
In the following weeks, Micaela started to stand by me during dance class and narrated everything she saw her classmates doing. She pointed to a colorful rug on the floor with the alphabet and pictures of animals. The students slithered on their bellies; she ran and pointed to a picture of a snake next to the letter S. She excitedly said, “They are slithering like snakes!” When we worked on shapes, she looked around at the whole room of dancers holding their still shapes, and said, “They are frozen like ice statues.” I asked students to melt down to the low level and she whispered, “…like the ice melting on a hot day.”
After about 3 weeks of observing, Micaela started dancing. She seemed to take my indication very seriously, “find the empty space.” I saw her jogging around her classmates’ bodies in the middle level, her arms carving out the empty space in front of her. She also began proudly inventing her own shapes, repeatedly holding a shape balancing on one leg, with her arms straight over her head, and her leg at a 90 degree angle in front of her. She held that shape for a long time and said, “Amelia! Do you see me?”