Williams College, North Adams Public Schools Present 'Let's Dance!' Performance
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The '62 Center for Theatre and Dance, in collaboration with the Dance Department, the Center for Learning in Action and the North Adams Public Schools, has expanded its dance program "Let's Dance!"
Piloted last spring, "Let's Dance!" brings NAPS students from the 21st Century Afterschool program to Williams for a multi-week learning experience, offering students in grades three through five an introduction to the basic concepts of ballet and modern dance. After the success of the spring 2019 program, Let's Dance! has been expanded, with the generous support of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, to a full-year program spread over two 14-15 week sessions. The students' accomplishments of each session are displayed with a performance at Williams' '62 Center along with a community meal following the performance.
The Let’s Dance! celebration will be presented at Williams College on Friday, Feb. 7, at 4 p.m. in the ‘62 Center for Theatre and Dance's MainStage. In addition to the young dancers, the young musicians of the Kids 4 Harmony program also will be guests. The '62 Center is located at 1000 Main St. All are welcome to this free event.
This project is supported by a grant awarded by the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation's Arts Build Community initiative with funding from the Barr Foundation.
Janine Parker, artist-in-residence in the Dance Department, is a project co-creator and leads the new teaching team, which includes three Williams student assistants - senior Erin Meadors and first-year students Maria Avrantini and Lucy Walker - as well as Williams Dance Department musicians John Sauer (pianist) and Gary Rzab (percussionist), who provide accompaniment for the classes. Classes are held twice per week at Williams College and are open to students from Greylock and Colegrove Park Elementary Schools as well.
"Williams College has been a tremendous partner to the North Adams Public Schools, and we are delighted to be working with Janine and her students on a new dance initiative," Noella Carlow, the coordinator for the NAPS 21st Century After School program, said. "They are discovering the gold in our students, and, as a result of this program, we are seeing the best in our youth bubbling up to the surface in the form of increased confidence and self-esteem."
An environment of safe, encouraging, engaged learning is fostered through exercises and tasks that honor both consistency and creativity.
"A long time ago, one of my mentors told me that children need to push at the edges as they learn," Parker said. "And that it’s our job as teachers to allow them the freedom to explore but to also help them learn the value of being able to follow directions. As they develop their physical 'toolkit' and inner artistic expression, they discover the joy of being able to 'speak' powerfully and eloquently through their own bodies."
Project co-creator Molly Polk of CLiA coordinates Williams Elementary Outreach programs at Brayton and Greylock Schools and credits this collaboration with providing a new pathway for Williams students who are interested in arts-based community engagement and teaching.
"With faculty mentorship, Williams students are deepening their own practice as dancers by learning how to teach the technique and expressive language of their art form," Polk said. "Applying a student-centered pedagogy, the Williams teaching team dances with and alongside their students, and, together, students and teachers are building community based on trust and mutual respect."
Walker said working with the program has been "an incredibly positive experience" for her.
"It's been wonderful to watch these kids generate an appreciation for dance and improve week to week. Their excitement about remembering a name for a step or kind of rhythm, and their eagerness to show off their own choreography has been a joy to witness, and all of them have grown so much," she said. "I'm so glad I get to play a role in their dance education."
Let’s Dance has successfully brought together multiple partners, leveraging existing resources and expertise, to extend teaching and learning opportunities for both Williams and NAPS students. Going forward, the planning team will continue to investigate how to sustain and scale the program to build on early positive results.
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