Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Let's Dance!

My first year teaching, I had the idea of suggesting to our five-year-olds that they, collectively, come up with something "big" they could do "for the whole school." That year, the kids decided they wanted to build a volcano, but the following year our oldest kids wanted to perform a play, making such an impression that it has since become an annual tradition.

The kids start by writing a script, a process that takes several weeks, followed by dozens of rehearsals which are really opportunities to re-write, edit, and play around on the stage. They make their own sets, props, and costumes. All told, it's a process that takes months and results is a wonderful, child-led mess of a show.

Most years, the kids include at least one dance number: this year we have three. Yesterday, we democratically chose the songs to which we were going to perform, and, for the ninth time in the past ten years, among the songs selected, unanimously, was Kool & the Gang's Jungle Boogie. (For the curious, we also chose Sly & the Family Stone's Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) and the Ramones' Too Tough to Die.) The children at Woodland Park, apparently, love them some Jungle Boogie. The selection of songs, as always, was limited by the music I personally own and I recognize that I'm dating myself.

Our process was one of me playing various songs and the children voting with their bodies by dancing or not dancing. We took a field trip to the Pacific Northwest Ballet on Monday where we learned about dancing "energies" like "smooth," "sharp," "swinging," and "shaking," all of which were evident in the kid's dance moves. We had so much fun that we took the music outside with us where some of us continued dancing on our new playground stage, a project that a group of parents undertook last Saturday.

We do quite a bit of singing and dancing around Woodland Park, but recorded music is relatively rare, a fact that probably has more to do with me than it should, but there you have it. When I first started teaching I thought it would be nice to have a little background music every now and then, but found that it tended to just simply ramp up the overall volume level in our already noisy room as the kids vied to shout over the music. But more significant is the fact that background music tends to drive me a little bit crazy: I love to listen to music, but I simply can't do so while occupied with anything that requires talking or listening to other people, a big part of the job. And while, yes, the school is the children's space, it is also my workplace and so recorded music is rather rare, a fact that I found myself regretting yesterday as the children danced.

When I first suggested our new stage, my idea was that it would be a place for the children to present impromptu acting performances, but yesterday's outdoor dance party was one of those "Well duh!" epiphanies for me. While the "noise" might be unbearable for me indoors, outdoors is a different story. I'm now in the market for an outdoor sound system capable of standing up to northwest weather that the kids can use themselves.

Let's dance!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't own one myself, but I thought of the boom boxes that are designed to be used by construction workers or housepainters and are often manufactured by tool companies. Also check out EcoXGear, waterproof portable speakers that can be used with any 1/8" input such as an inexpensive MP3 player, old Discman CD player, or even a Walkman cassette player.