by Heather Stockton
shared from the Grass Valley Elementary Makers Blog
Last fall I was asked by a fourth grader, “Why do we have dance class?” I got excited by this question because it meant they were curious. I asked the question back to the class, “Why do you think we have dance classes? Why do you want to dance?” I heard answers like:
“Because it’s good for our body!”
“Because it gives us energy”
“To move our bodies”
“Because it makes me happy.”
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Yes, yes, and yes! All of these are true, and I also wanted to dig deeper with them into the conversation. “How do you feel when you learn a new way to move your body? How do you feel when you create a move you have never tried before?” I asked.
“Good”, they responded.
I asked them why they feel those ways. We talked about when you work really hard to learn something new, don’t give up on it. That moment where it all clicks together and the feeling of accomplishment gives you a boost of energy and pride.
In dance classes you can get these feelings of accomplishment from learning different dances and moves from all kinds of styles. In the classes that Luna Dance teaches at Grass Valley, students learn all of the basic movements from the elements of dance (body, time, space, action, energy) and create their own dances.
“But what do you mean by make my own dance?” the fourth grader asked.
“Well, you know all those dances you learn on Tik Tok? They were created by someone else.”
After I said this I heard a lot of “Whoas and ohs!” In this dance class you get to be the choreographer making all of the choices, and maybe one day all these other people will be learning your dances! Your dances can be performed on Tik Tok, or a big fancy stage, on the street with friends, for your family, or even just for yourself.
This idea seemed to make sense in a way it might not have before. There is always someone behind a movement and an idea.
In all the dance classes at Grass Valley (GV), students make dances and share them with each other. Performing in front of others can be really vulnerable and at times I know students feel shy. It’s all worth it when students share their dance, truly express themselves, and are seen by their classmates. Right before winter break, the Spartans, Pioneers, and Huskies had a dance movie party where they shared the dance videos they had been working so hard on with each other. The way that they screamed and supported each other, you would have thought that Beyoncé was performing! It was such an awesome moment of peers supporting each other, the work that they had created and performed. Truly, it was one of the best highlights of my time teaching dance at Grass Valley.
I have been teaching at GV for six years now as a faculty member of Luna Dance Institute. Luna has been building a dance program with classroom teachers and administrators at GV for 8 years and each year we learn more about how to support dance learners with different needs from kindergarten to fifth grade. Every class is so different. I work with every classroom teacher to create classes that are meant to support individual student needs and overall community building for the whole class. I learn so much from every class, teacher, and student. In our dance classes we are co-learners and co-teachers.
So why do we teach creative dance? So that students can learn and create while dancing. Imagine how powerful it can feel to be in complete control of your body, discover new ways of moving it to express how you feel and communicate with others. The dream is for every student at Grass Valley and beyond to feel that sense of belonging and empowerment. The future belongs to the learners and the creators. Make moves to make change!