Collaborative meeting + creating a partnership

This week I was able to schedule a meeting with myself, Ms. McDonald, Ms. Kim Demery (the project manager of the LEAP team at NCAIA), and Mr. Marlon Torres (the executive director of NCAIA). During the meeting, we discussed our ideas for what a long-term partnership between DA and NCAIA would look like. We concluded that the most beneficial partnership would be an internship that would be available for DA students to work as an assistant dance teacher with NCAIA over a longer period of time (ie: a quarter). We believe that having 1 to 2 committed volunteers would be more helpful to the NCAIA program because they would be able to get to know the kids and the structure of the program well. To begin working on this internship, I will be scheduling a meeting with Ms. Reed to discuss the logistics of creating a DA internship. Ms. McDonald will also be sending Ms. Kim our school schedule so that Ms. Kim can compare it to NCAIA’s schedule and determine how long the internship would last. I am really excited that we were able to have such a productive conversation!

Filming final projects + social emotional learning (Weeks of Mar. 13 and 20)

Over the past two weeks I have continued to volunteer with NCAIA as well as researching topics such as social emotional learning. Ms. McDonald encouraged me to conduct some more research on the benefits of social emotional learning through dance. I had researched this topic a bit last semester, but it was interesting to learn more about the variety of ways social emotional learning and dance can benefit children who have difficulty communicating or getting along with their peers. For example, I found that SEL is extremely helpful for children who are uncomfortable or have difficulty communicating verbally. My younger brother used to be very averse to speaking to classmates, teachers, and strangers during his earlier years, so it was interesting to learn about methods that are now being implemented to help other kids who struggle with the same difficulties. I also read an article written by a teacher who talked about how she noticed her students were able to get along better and feel more empowered after incorporating SEL and dance into her curriculum.

This weekend, instead of having our usual class at City Ballet, we went to the North Carolina Museum of Art to film the final choreography projects the kids had been working on for the past month. The first half of the day was spent rehearsing the two dances my group had choreographed and polishing formations. I also helped my kids prep for an interview they were going to do talking about their choreographic process and explaining the inspiration for their pieces. We were able to film each group’s individual pieces inside the museum in front of a large and beautiful art piece, which stylistically looked stunning. We then filmed a piece that the whole class had learned together outside and took some informal footage of myself and the other teachers interacting with the kids and letting them improvise as well. I am really excited to see how the film turns out!

Q3 Reflection (Week of Mar 6)

This semester I’ve had an amazing time volunteering with NCAIA and their weekend arts program. Being able to act as a dance teacher, demonstrate, and interact with so many young dancers has been so fun and fulfilling. It has been incredibly rewarding to see students start to come out of their shells when I dance with them or help them understand a piece of choreography. I’ve loved learning about different strategies to effectively teach individual dancers as well as the ways in which dance can act as a medium to help learn about other subjects. For example, the dancers are currently working on a project about exploring North Carolina, its history, and its notable figures. They are incorporating research, writing, and choreography into their projects and it has opened my eyes to how dance can be a vehicle to help students learn and express their ideas. This is a concept I learned about last semester, but it has been really exciting to see it happen in real life.

Looking forward, I am really excited to create a long-term partnership with NCAIA. I spoke with 2 of the other teachers/coordinators last weekend when I was volunteering and they were enthusiastic about the idea. They want to get in contact with Mrs. McDonald, my content advisor, as well so that we can brainstorm what would be most helpful to the program. Mrs. McDonald has been really helpful throughout this process because she has been able to advise me on how to begin these conversations with representatives of various organizations. She has also helped me come up with numerous ideas for what a potential partnership could look like. I am really excited to continue my study and hopefully form a beneficial partnership.

Chatting about a program + new insights into the power of dance (Week of Feb 27)

At this weekend’s class, I loved seeing something I had learned in my research during my first semester applied in the real world. I learned last semester that dance can act as a vehicle to help students learn about other subjects; this weekend, I saw how learning through dance excites and engages students. The dancers are currently working on a project about exploring North Carolina, its history, and notable figures. The project incorporates research, writing, and original dance choreography. I loved seeing how excited the dancers were to learn more about their region and historical figure because they knew that what they researched would shape the dance they create.

It was also rewarding to see how one of the older girls in the class came out of her shell and committed to the choreography we were practicing during the first half of the class when I did it with her as her partner. I’ve noticed that as one of the older girls in the class she sometimes feels out of place or uncomfortable dancing with the younger kids, but when I danced with her I noticed that she did everything full-out and seemed genuinely happy and proud to be dancing.

Lastly, I spoke to Ms. T (Ms. Sutton) and Ms. Kim, two of the coordinators and teachers at NCAIA. Although we didn’t have much time to talk during class, they were excited to talk with me and Ms. McD more soon.

A third week of volunteering + brainstorming a partnership (Week of Feb 20)

For this third week of volunteering, the class focused more on contemporary dance and being able to pick up technical choreography. There were also acrobatic elements incorporated into the choreography and it was interesting to see some of the kids explore a new form of movement. We spent the second half of class researching different parts of North Carolina, its nature, and its culture. From what I gathered, they are doing a project outside of class about North Carolina and are incorporating dance into it as well.

The kids are becoming more comfortable with me and it’s been fun to get to know their unique personalities more. Talking with them during breaks and showing them some of my old acro tricks made them laugh a lot. One of the girls who I mentioned in a previous post even came up to me to say that I was her favorite dance teacher, which made my day.

I’m currently reaching out to Ms. Sutton again to brainstorm ideas for a long-term partnership between DA and NCAIA because I don’t want the work I’ve done to disappear once I graduate. NCAIA is an amazing organization and it would be awesome if other DA students can continue to participate in and help them with their mission.

More teaching and demonstrating (Week of Feb 13)

This week I had my second session of volunteering at the NCAIA program. This weekend, two of the teachers from last week weren’t able to make it to class so it was just me and one other teacher. As a result, I ended up doing taking on more responsibility, teaching, and demonstrating more. I helped lead warmups, demonstrated all of the combinations, and took half the class to practice choreography and give corrections for the second half of class. It was super fun to be able to take on a larger role of teaching and interacting with the kids. I really enjoyed giving corrections and helping kids learn the choreography. It was also really heartwarming to connect with kids who I had begun forming relationships with last week. This session focused on picking up choreography quickly and learning the details of a combination. A choreographer taught the students African dance with live drumming and I could tell that the kids were excited about the new experience. It will be interesting to see what new dance styles we practice next week.

First week volunteering (Week of Feb 6)

This Saturday I volunteered for the first time at City Ballet in Raleigh in partnership with the NCAIA. I worked as an assistant teacher demonstrating combinations and helping students who were struggling. The class was fairly large with about 20-25 students ages 3rd grade to young middle schoolers. The teachers were really kind, supportive, and enthusiastic about our partnership.

For the first hour of class, we worked on warmups and learning a final combination for their culminating dance performance. The combination was a creative call and response piece that taught the students how to balance movement, pauses, and speaking and working at different timing than the teacher. I noticed that the class and teachers focused on engaging the students and encouraging them to move freely and confidently. The environment was incredibly supportive and more flexible than a typical studio class.

For the second hour of class, the students had a “glow party” where the teachers and I set up glow stick crafts, light up balloons, and music so that the kids could have a fun free-dance class. The kids had so much fun dancing in the dark with their glowing glasses and bracelets and I could tell that they felt super confident. I noticed that one girl, who had been very shy during the studio part of class, completely let loose during the glow party and was dancing her heart out the entire time. It was really amazing to see how passionate all the kids were about dancing and having fun with their friends and myself.

Confirming Opportunities (Week of Jan 30)

This week I was able to finalize a volunteer opportunity for this winter/spring! I continued talking with Ms. Sutton from NCAIA and we were able to confirm three dates in February (11, 18, and 25) for me to come to their dance classes and assist in teaching. I am super excited to work with NCAIA for the next month, and hopefully for months after as well!

Additionally, this week in dance, a hip hop dancer and choreographer named José Velasquez worked with us as a dance instructor. He taught us a lot about the history of hip hop as well as inequalities in the dance world. His discussion was fascinating and overlapped a lot with the research I did first semester, so I’d be interested in interviewing him this semester if he has availabilities.

Further Conversations (Week of Jan 23)

This week I continued to have email conversations with representatives from the local arts organizations. I heard back from Heather Bryce, an expert I interviewed last semester who partners as a teaching artist at the Durham Arts Council, as well as running her own arts organizations. Ms. Bryce told me she was unaware of any current opportunities at the Durham Arts Council, but said I should reach out to another representative to get more information. She did inform me that there will be some administrative work available at her organization, Teaching Artists Connect, in the fall. I will look into those opportunities for next year, but for right now I am still in search of volunteer work for the spring.

After speaking to Ms. Bryce, I reached out to Katie Starr, another representative from the Durham Arts Council to see if there were any spring opportunities available that Ms. Bryce was unaware of. Unfortunately, the earliest available opportunities are for the DAC’s summer camp. Although I can’t volunteer with the DAC right now, I am super excited to look into volunteering at their summer camp!

When I spoke to Lillianna Hoffman, the Education Coordinator for the Carrboro Arts Center, I was initially excited to learn that there are opportunities available to volunteer at their arts program; however, unfortunately the only dates available were on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which interferes with my track practices so I am unable to participate.

Fortunately, after speaking withTiana Sutton, the Associate Artistic Director of the NCAIA program, I found that there may be some spring opportunities that work with my schedule! Ms. Sutton has been incredibly informative and helpful, and told me that there are dance classes on Saturdays that I would be able to volunteer at as an assistant teacher. This is the perfect opportunity for me to work as a dance instructor and learn how to teach! We are still talking about details and dates for the program, but I am super excited to work with the NCAIA and this amazing opportunity!

Coordinating Volunteer Opportunities (Week of Jan. 16)

For this first week of my extended independent study, I’ve been reaching our to representatives and coordinators at various local arts organizations, including the Durham Arts Council, the Carrboro Arts Center, and NC Arts in Action, to see what volunteer opportunities are available for me. I am currently trying to coordinate my schedule to see which opportunities would fit best. Right now I am leaning towards volunteering at the NCAIA’s Saturday classes, but I have to figure out how I can get to Raleigh in order for this to be viable.