(June 1, 2023 - Jersey City, NJ) This Spring Explore 7th graders participated in Dance & Democracy, a 10-week program created by Nimbus Dance in collaboration with Dance Educator Cristina Marte. This curriculum uses the creative process as a conceptual embodied metaphor to build young people’s confidence and awareness about the fundamentals of democratic principles & human rights. Dance and Democracy addresses the New Jersey State Standards in Dance and Social Studies grades 6-8 for an interdisciplinary approach enabling students to apply content knowledge and develop
civic-mindedness. The Social Emotional Learning Framework is highlighted to show the intersection of dance and social emotional learning through intentional creative community experiences.
Culturally responsive teaching strategies are used to cultivate independent thinkers amongst the diverse student body.
The learning experiences involve dance, co-creation, civic participation, and diverse cultural traditions in order to learn how to consider multiple perspectives, value diversity, and promote cultural understanding in order to make informed decisions as a community member. Dance & Democracy explores how dance can be used as a vehicle for exploring the fundamentals of democracy and raising social consciousness around the role of citizens’ voices as individuals and a community.
The 7th grade students of Explore Middle School recently completed Dance & Democracy with Nimbus Teaching Artist Madison Meredith. Throughout their 10-weeks together, students learned about the Elements of Dance (time, space, energy, effort) to think critically about the four Democratic Principles (equality, freedom, liberty, and respect for individual rights). Students participated in planned and improvised dance phrases, researching/speaking about historical figures/bodies of work, and building choreography as a class to present at their final Dance & Democracy showcase for the students and parents of Explore MS.
The 7th graders were also able to participate in a workshop with guest artist Shehnaaz Dance Academy to learn about different Indian dance forms. This workshop helped engage students with the topic of global citizenship and how the arts can be used to communicate/reflect citizens’ voices. In efforts to encourage students to use their voice and exemplify their knowledge about democracy, Ms. M assisted the 7th graders in creating a petition for something they are passionate about seeing changed at Explore MS: the use of school bucks for purchases made at the snack cart/vending machine (as it is currently cash only).
To conclude Dance & Democracy, the 6th and 7th grade students were invited to The Nimbus Arts Center for the 7th grade showcase. As the 7th graders participated in their final rehearsal in the Nimbus theater, the 6th graders were invited to explore the Nimbus studios which included watching a Dance & Democracy documentary with Nimbus founder, Samuel Pott. They also created an artwork that captures the importance of individual voice amongst a community which will soon debut on the walls of Explore Middle School.
“I enjoyed the Shehnaaz Dance Academy because not only did we learn more cultural moves, but we learned in India there were many protests. The one thing that kept them productive and kept them wanting to keep protesting every day for around a year was dance. Every night before they went to sleep they would all have a big dance celebration and sing, and music was what kept them going.” - Gianna B.
“Getting to go through the process of figuring out how to put a dance together was a great experience. We were able to make a lot of decisions about our piece to represent ourselves within the dance.” - Nathaniel D.
“Learning to count music to dance together was definitely a challenge, but it has taught us new skills. We learned that dance takes so many skills- including mental, physical, and emotional.”- Alexis R.
“Dance is not exclusive to one group of people, dance is for everybody. We saw how it could be inclusive all throughout these 10 classes. Something else we worked on was practicing using our voice to speak up about a cause in our school that we strongly believe in. We brainstormed some common issues that affect students in their day to day lives at Explore Middle School and we voted on a topic with a petition.” - Nia J.
“We worked together to write a problem statement and a statement of purpose. We also started spreading the word to other students in other grades!” - Rajan G.
“Most of our favorite parts of the program were when we got to work and dance together in partners and small groups. We learned about so many different types of movements, and everyone in the class felt represented.”- Gianna B.
“Dance & Democracy was created to focus on the importance of freedom of expression, and that is exactly what the students of Explore MS demonstrated! They articulated both movement and verbal responses that connected their understanding of democracy to their individual understanding of dance. Their courage, creativity, and abilities to think critically were evident throughout these last 10 weeks, and their growth as not only dancers, but as people, is what has been the most exciting to watch.”- Kayla Alvarez, Nimbus Community Programs Manager