At Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science this week and next, Diamond Dance Project co-director Jessie Soyangco is in-residence, teaching dance to students from kindergarten to the fifth grade.
Sharing the joys of dance, and the confidence it can inspire, is central to the program, Soyangco said Thursday. He said he’s not there to convince students to love dance, but he hopes to encourage them to find a greater understanding of the people around them through that medium.
Over the course of around a week and a half, Soyangco said he’s given the opportunity to provide the students with something “natural” that they can take back to their classroom and that can ripple through the rest of their year.
In dance, whether at Kaleidoscope or with his company, Soyangco said everybody is a diamond and every diamond is different. That means everyone learns differently, has different skills, and has different levels of comfort expressing themselves in front of others.
Imparting that philosophy, he said, means teaching the kids respect and helping them to understand that everyone’s different.
“That will help them become better community leaders,” he said. “That’s the biggest part, is helping kids become part of the community.”
Dance is uniquely suited to promoting that growth. Soyangco said that in dance the students learn to listen to music and listen to others. They learn to move in their own space and move as a collective. They learn to support each other.
“Music is something that speaks to people,” Soyangco said.
On Thursday, Soyangco led a group of kindergarten students through a simple dance routine set to a remix he produced from the theme song of children’s cartoon “Little Einsteins.” The kids started to the side of the room, skipped into their places and then performed the moves in time to a count.
With each grade, Soyangco said the routines get a little more complex. He described shifting his plans in the moment to fit the needs of the students. The fifth graders, for example, had lyrics and emotions beyond just the dance moves that “wanted to come out,” so he began introducing those elements.
The residency will close with an “informance,” on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., where the kids will share what they’ve learned with the community.
Soyangco said it would be a valuable opportunity for the kids to perform in front of an audience. At the conclusion of around a week and a half of work, Soyangco said the kids have each only spent around 45 minutes with him across different sessions — but he said at the informance people will see how hard the kids are working to develop skills in that short time.
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