Kids are MAGICAL.
I love witnessing how quickly they flow through the range of human emotion. Even in the murky moments, they immediately find their way back to JOY. What beautiful spirits. I love how much they smile, laugh, and how much their little bodies just HAVE TO MOVE.
Enter one of the most incredible teaching experiences of my life:
Back in April I was hired by a private school in Seattle, through my project DIG Dance Instigators Group, to lead their first and second grade classes (72 students in total!) through a dance unit that would culminate in the kids performing a flashmob during their school fair. Many of them had never danced before so I knew this would be quite the task, but I was thrilled for the challenge.
I worked with these young people for about 11 hours over the course of three weeks. While the goal was to get them dancing an entire routine by the end, I had also hoped that in the process I could share with them the joy of dancing and its connection to music – and to encourage them to keep dancing throughout their lives, even if they never step foot inside a dance studio. We don’t need lessons to let loose and boogie to the music that moves us!
Here’s a clip from one of our instruction days:
To help them learn, I created instructional videos that broke down what I showed them in person during each of my visits. I noticed that these videos I sent to their families ended up having over 300 views – meaning they were really practicing! And I saw the results of their hard work firsthand. Before my second visit with them, I wondered if I’d have to review what I taught them on day one, especially since many of them had never danced before. But as soon as I arrived on day two, I asked them if they could dance the first part on their own and the enthusiastically screamed back at me, “yeaaaaaah!!!!!” And, they did. I was totally blown away by their excitement and hard work. I think the song I chose for them really helped keep them interested: It was “Sunshine” by Matisyahu. One of the teachers told me that one of her students came up to her after their first lesson with me and told her, “I LOVE the song that Jessie chose for us. It’s really my kind of music.” …out of the mouths of 7 year olds. :)
And here’s a photo of the kids practicing their flashmob at a park, the day before their school performance!
And here’s the full flashmob performance at their school, filmed and edited by UCDS:
About three weeks after their school performance, I had mentioned to the teachers that it would be fabulous to take the kids out in public so they felt like it was a “real” flashmob (in front of people they didn’t know). So we decided to let them have one more go at it on campus at the University of Washington during finals week. UW was just about a mile from their school, so I met them and we all got to walk over together (I may or may not have galloped with some of them part of the way there…). When we arrived they ate lunch in Red Square and then we blasted the music for them. They did GREAT! At this final performance, we all gathered after and the teachers and students presented me with a book of illustrated thank you notes – 72 of them to be exact, one from each child. Wow, I was so moved by this. I sat in a nearby cafe afterwards getting all teary-eyed as I read their sweet messages.
Here we are in a big group hug after they presented me with the book!
I wish I could share every single note that the students wrote for me, but instead I’ll just share one with you. They were ALL this lovely. I was particularly stunned at how insightful this one was, and it really made me feel as though they were able to takeaway more than just dance moves….
(It reads, “Dear Jessie, thank you for teaching me that you could dance differently just because the music changes. I love how you made the moves so energetic. I felt like I was riding across periods and lands! Music can take you anywhere! Love, Lea!”)
…and this is EXACTLY why I do what I do – in my own explorations, and to be able to share this curiosity/creativity/discovery with others. – in performance and in the classroom.
Thanks, UCDS, for bringing me in. What a joy that was!
I would love to expand upon this flashmob program and bring it to more schools in the future. If you happen to read this and know of a school that might be interested in providing its students with this multifaceted experience in self-expression, confidence building, creativity, and discipline, please reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you!