For nearly two decades Eastgate has partnered with Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) to deliver DISCOVER DANCE to all fourth grade students at the school. The program runs three months and Eastgate’s PTA has generously supported the program throughout the years.
“One of the best parts of the program is that it aims for 100 percent inclusion,” said fourth grade teacher Marelaine Dykes. “Student ability and student needs don’t determine if they can be in the program – everyone can be in this program.”
DISCOVER DANCE allows students to learn about movement in a way that connects to their curriculum, while also giving them a chance to learn about the strength and coordination associated with dance. Teamwork and cooperation are also a focus while students work towards the culminating experience of an on-stage performance at McCaw Hall.
In addition to dancing twice a week, students go on three field trips associated with the program, including one that takes them behind-the-scenes of PNB.
Fourth grader Hailey Wilson said, “I really like dance, so I have something to look forward to at the start of the day, I really want to go to school, so that makes me excited.”
Teachers work with PNB teaching artist, Kayti Bouljon to determine a way for the dance to tie directly to curriculum that’s being taught in the classroom. This year students are focusing on science and electricity in dance.
“Some of the key concepts and key learnings that we teach about electricity will get hooked into the dance by us thinking about the concepts and how they would look from a movement perspective,” said Dykes.
Together the teachers and Bouljon determine what the main concepts are that could translate into movement, enhancing students understanding of those concepts.
“For the electricity, we might have the idea of something about an electrical system. A system is a whole with parts – how would you dance a whole with parts?” said Dykes. “We may ask students ‘what if you were each different parts of a system, but you want to be coordinated because you are part of something bigger?’”
Students build their dance skills by starting with the basic concepts of dancing and movements, then it moves into how to dance part of the curriculum in small chunks, followed by Bouljon guiding students through choreographing a dance based on a piece of the curriculum. This choreographed dance is what students then perform at McCaw Hall.
“I like the dance class because it gets me really energized,” said fourth grader Juliana He.
Bouljon has a mutual affinity for the program and the students.
“The students are my favorite part of teaching,” she said. “It’s a privilege to watch their journey from trying something new for the first time – taking a big risk – to becoming creative dancers and choreographers.”
This year Eastgate will perform on March 25 at McCaw Hall.