Upper School Dance Students Expressing Pain and Hardship of 2020 Through Performance
The Upper School dance classes have integrated some of the most difficult topics of 2020, such as social justice and the lasting impact of COVID-19, into the program’s in-person and remote-learning curriculum.
St. Margaret’s Director of Dance Kirsten Harvey said she recognized a need to address what the students were experiencing outside of the studio. They needed an opportunity to bring their inner emotions into an outward artistic and technical expression of dance choreography.
During remote learning at the beginning of the school year, dancers worked on projects related to current social justice issues, such as racial and wealth inequities, homelessness, mental health and wellness, human trafficking, stress, world hunger, and addiction. The dancers were asked to identify what social justice is and brainstorm how dance can be used effectively to raise awareness for a social issue.
They then picked a song that best fit their topic, choreographed collaboratively online with one or more partners, filmed the dance, and provided information about their topic and why they selected it.
“Students have commented how impactful this first project was in finding their voice about a topic other than just technique acquisition or aesthetically pleasing choreography,” Ms. Harvey said.
The next unit will explore dance as a healing medium.
“This technique of using dance for healing and coping with trauma has been pioneered by dance artists since the 1950s,” Ms. Harvey said. “With the dancers' experiences of COVID-19, it seemed appropriate to engage students in this topic.”
Dancers will take an online dance as a healing medium class, explore their own feelings and experiences with COVID-19, create drawings based off their emotional experiences, and then work with a partner to create a duet that expresses these ideas. At the end of the unit, the dancers will present their projects wearing masks and physically distancing.
Ms. Harvey is hoping that these artistic experiences will be life-changing, affirming, and therapeutic, sparking conversations about equity and inclusion during a time of pain and hardship for many.
“These projects will allow the dancers to see dance not only as technical exploration but also an opportunity to increase awareness for others and themselves,” she said.