Social distance, masks on and up, stay in your own box, no need to change and don’t fully exert yourself are all phrases I never imagined using in a dance class. These all go against many things we typically work on developing in dance education. Close connection to other dancers through counter balance exercises and lifts teaches excellent body awareness and the importance of weight transfer. Facial expression is an important part of our body as an instrument of creative expression. Spatial awareness through transitions and formations creates engaging dynamics for audience members. Building stamina is great for cardiovascular health and endurance. All these examples are typically a part of the day to day life in dance class. I am sure one thing students did not miss is regular reminders to add facials to their dancing. Students quickly learned that eyes alone are very expressive and can change communication to an audience.
Although it was not a typical year in dance we were able to adapt and try new things. The dance butterfly consists of four wings: making, creating, connecting and responding. We shifted our focus away from our usual showcase preparation (with has a heavy emphasis on making and creating dance) and spent additional time in other wings of the dance learner.
One of the goals in dance education, as outlined by Manitoba Education is for the learner to develop understandings about the significance of dance by making connections to various contexts of times, places, social groups, and cultures.
One example of how we achieved this goal was viewing a newly released documentary film. Toronto Black Film Festival streamed Uprooted: The Journey of Jazz Dance. Each dance class was able to view this film to expand their knowledge on the true roots of jazz dance. This was a great way to connect dance to our school wide Black History month initiatives.
Another excellent resource for achieving this goal was by viewing Our Scene: The Movie. This documentary was filmed right here in Winnipeg and tells the story of Winnipeg’s Hip Hop Dance community. Students have always enjoyed viewing this in class as many of the dancers and choreographers are well known in our community. This documentary includes over 2 decades of Winnipeg dance footage.
Performance was not completely off the table for our first semester dancers. We had the ability to enjoy Seven Oaks Performing Arts center as an extension to our classroom. Students worked in the creating wing of the dance learner butterfly developing choreographed routines for a holiday theme video. Our goal was to spread joy to family, friends and our school community. It was a much different experience than a dance showcase that many students are more accustomed to being involved in. We were able to revise, refine and combine our work with the amazing support of SOPAC Live producers, Ben Ross and Garrett Rusnak. Check out the final product here: https://vimeo.com/491437527/930b2e9534
Unity Charity is another way we were able to connect through dance this year. Unity Charity is a national charity that uses Hip Hop art forms to build resiliency and well-being in youth today. West Kay Dance Co. had the opportunity to work virtually with Toronto based choreographer’s for a 6 week program. Unfortunately the remote learning announcement mid May impacted our ability to complete this in person. The extension of remote learning until the end of the school year impacted a smooth conclusion of our plans to film the learned routine at Seven Oaks Performing Arts Center. We look forward to working with Unity Charity again in the near future as the choreographer’s brought a tremendous amount of expertise, passion and resiliency to our students.
Looking forward, there are a lot of things to be excited for! The shovel will hit the ground in the fall for the West Kildonan Collegiate extension. This school extension will include a dance studio equipped with wall mounted barres, a sprung dance floor and roughly 30 feet of mirror! This will support the continued growth of our arts programs here at West Kildonan Collegiate. We have loved sharing a space over the years but it is exciting to know that our programs will now have the space to grow and continue to provide the many benefits of arts education!
Muse Studios has offered three scholarships to West Kildonan Collegiate dance students this year. Congratulations to Cerio Abrenica, M.J. Dela Cruz and Juliana Laroque for their leadership, teamwork, hard work ethic and perseverance through a challenging year. These three students will have 100% covered tuition for a program of choice at Muse Studios. Special thank you to director Wayne Santos for encouraging youth across the city to continue pursing dance training during and after their high schools years. We appreciate his generous contribution and his passion for giving back to our community.
This June we were not able to celebrate West Kildonan Collegiate Dance’s 10th annual June showcase. We look forward to the potential of a June 2022, 10+1 Anniversary Showcase! If Covid19 cooperates we hope to welcome back alumni students to celebrate the growth and learning that has occurred in the dance program over the past 10 years.
Thank you dance students for the never ending adaptations required this year and I wish you all a safe, fun and restful summer! Keep on dancing! 🙂