Teaching Artist Barnel Anderson writes about creating choreography for Dance eXchange, our in-school arts education program!
The year 2020 was a very challenging one, and dance artists all over had to get creative and find new ways to bring that studio feeling to our homes/living spaces. I know it was a challenge for me, so as a teaching artist for Dance eXchange I was instantly reminded of the kids we taught the previous year. When I joined the Dance eXchange team in fall 2019, working with students at Albert M. Greenfield and Chester Arthur Schools was the highlight of my day. Those kids were so intelligent and talented, and I saw how much this program meant to them. I saw how much we as teaching artists inspired them and pushed them to be the best versions of themselves.
I also saw the inverse of that, and how the teaching artists were inspired by the kids. They pushed us to be better educators and overall artists. It was a great mutualistic, symbiotic relationship in which we were all learning and being challenged.
There is so much magic surrounding the Dance eXchange program, and when we entered quarantine due to the pandemic, my heart shattered. But again, as artists we got creative to keep the magic surrounding dance alive, pivoting the program to a virtual one featuring a video series and digital classes.
In fall 2020 we started to brainstorm choreography for the kids. Using the National Dance Institute method, we created movement, roughly 16 – 32 counts of choreography for letters A – J in the alphabet. It’s a lot easier for students to learn and remember choreography this way, and to make it even easier we assign a word that matches the letters they learn within the theme. For example, with our theme of Strength, letter C stood for civil rights. The civil rights movement was a huge display of the strength of black people in fighting for basic human rights. So letter C standing for civil rights under the theme of Strength fit perfectly. At the same time, kids were also starting to learn about the civil right movement in their classrooms; that symmetry allows the meaning of the theme to resonate beyond the choreography.
For winter/spring 2021, our program theme is Resilience: Together we can. The year 2020 taught us to be A – adaptable, in so many ways. The fact that we are here living, breathing, and still being able to do this program showed us that we are C – Capable and D – Determined to keep Dance eXchange alive in a new form to continue to inspire our students. I’m forever grateful for this experience. I constantly remind myself of the impact this has on the kids. What they’re learning here has the potential to reshape dance and society. Being with Dance eXchange just gives me so much hope, and with a year like 2020, hope is essential.
-Barnel Anderson, Dance eXchange Teaching Artist since 2019
To learn more about Dance eXchange, visit our program website!