Reaching out to school students with river imagery

Last Wednesday, the whole company of dancers met at the Botanic Gardens for our first enrichment activity of the season. We had a couple of training sessions to prepare us for the big day and knew the choreography from the River Project 2 that we were to perform, but had no idea what to expect from this group of more than 100 students. We started our morning with company class in the gorgeous Hardin Hall.  Then the students of Lowrance Middle and Rozelle Elementary quietly filed into the auditorium.  They were a polite and captivated audience, engaging with selections from Petr Zahradnicek’s piece about George Coleman Poage, the first African-American athlete to win a medal in the Olympic Games, and from Julie Niekrasz’s choreography about the history of St. Louis.

Then it was time for us to meet the students. We split into teams named after different states surrounding the Mississippi River. To my excitement, I helped lead the fearless Tennessee Team. As any teacher or camp counselor is well aware, every activity has to begin with some sort of name-game icebreaker to dispel any general jitters or shyness. With this group, we added a twist: to come up with a dance move to go with your name. I was blown away by the creativity of these students. These were choreographers! After discussing the stories behind River Project 2, we taught them some of the steps from Petr’s piece. Following that, we talked about how to make our own story about the river, using steps from the choreography they learned, or movement inspired by a poem, partnering, or different ways to swim in the river. My team was especially inspired by the ways different sea creatures could swim through the river.

The best part of the day was the performance at the end, when each team showed their creations. Overall, I think the most rewarding part of this experience was witnessing the courage, creativity and pride in each student as they experimented with different ways to use their bodies to tell a story. I can’t wait for our next enrichment activity this Thursday at the Buckman Performing Arts Center!

Posted by Ballet Memphis at 11:54 AM
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