Dancing Around the World Here In Los Angeles
Dancing Around the World….Here in Los Angeles
By Stephanie Hill,
Of course no matter how much preparation goes into the show, what really counts is what happens when the curtain rises. I was in the orchestra pit looking out at several preschool aged girls. They were dressed in Hawaiian hula skirts, hair adorned with flowers. The music began to play and, all together, they began dancing!
As the owner of Dancetime by Stephanie, I have the pleasure of working with hundreds of children throughout the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley areas. Dancetime by Stephanie is featured at a number of preschools, Montessori’s, as well as private and public elementary schools. Our dance classes are part of the school curriculum and/or an enrichment class offered to the families. Many of ourstudents receive their first introduction to dancing through our unique dance education program. Our youngest students are age 2. I enjoy watching our students grow into dancing with each passing year of preschool, Montessori education, kindergarten and beyond.
Every child benefits from dance classes with Dancetime by Stephanie. Our dance classes train students in ballet basics, creative movement, hip-hop, and cultural folk dance. Tiny toes are soon tapping to our musical selections which can span the decades or embrace popular culture. Through the use of props, storytelling, improvisation, and lots of dancing children are encouraged to excel in coordination, grace, strength, and positive expression. Children are encouraged to dance their dreams.
DANCING AROUND THE WORLD
This year I had a specific vision in mind when putting together the annual,Dancetime by Stephanie, on stage dance show. The vision came together as I sought to celebrate the many different nationalities, ethnic backgrounds, and diverse cultures found among the students that I teach. I wanted the dance production to highlight as many countries around the world as possible, all in a single evening of entertainment. “Dancing Around the World” began as an idea that would take shape and unfold over the next several months.
I knew it was a tall order. A dozen schools, in the Los Angeles area, would be participating. The performance would include 26 dances performed by children age 2 through 9. There would be approximately 75 children participating in the show. The dances would need to be authentic and exemplary of each selected region of the world. The children needed to connect with the movement, the audience needed to be entertained. Although it was a tall order I felt the goal was attainable. I felt inspired to make this show a success. So I broke the project down into doable pieces. Dancetime by Stephanie classes are taught by myself as well as three other wonderful, qualified dance teachers: Anna Lamonica, Melina Minassian, and MilvaRinaldelli. I assigned each teacher the task of choosing a country and choreographing a dance to be performed on stage.In class rehearsals begin in the month of February. Dancetime by Stephanie students began learning their steps while learning about the country they were dancing from.
I met with our costume designer, Chisato Dubose. Chisato is a remarkable talent that sews all of the costumes for our shows. She works out of the Seattle WA area but flew down to meet with me. “Just play the music for me” she said as we sat at my dining room table. I played “Year of Happiness”, the traditional Chinese folk music that would accompany our Chinese Ribbon dance. Chisato closed her eyes and I knew she was piecing together fabrics, textures, colors and designs in her mind. I gave her free reign to design the costumes any way she liked. Each year she impresses me with the beauty and care she puts into each costume. This year Chisato seemed particularly inspired by the idea of creating costumes from around the world. I knew the costumes would bring “Dancing Around the World” to life in a very dazzling way.
As the weeks went by rehearsals went into full swing. “What country are our dances from?” I would ask my students. “Ireland”, “West Africa”, “China” my students would shout out in chorus. They were becoming familiar with folk music from a foreign country. Every beat, rhythm, and melody was memorized and danced to by the students. Tickets went on sale. Costumes were delivered to the schools. We were on track for the upcoming performance.
One week before the show I headed to the recording studio to produce voiceovers. It was time to link together the entire show together with a pre-recorded narration. I write all of my own script and lend my voice to the narration. Edward Auslender of lamusiclab.com makes sure our soundtrack is seamless.
TIME TO DANCE:
The children had an amazing time participating in the show. They brought each dance to life with the confidence of knowing their steps and expressing them beautifully.
- “Zoubisou, bisou”, our French dance, had the audience roaring with laughter at the spontaneity of the choreography as the children kissed the air.
- “Desert Rose” was performed by myself and former Dancetime by Stephanie teacher, Rachel Cohen.Expert lighting provided a surreal silhouette of two belly dancers shimmying in the moonlight.
- “Ye Ishk Hai” was a Bollywood style dance celebrating popular culture in India. The girls performed intricate hand movements as their graceful bodies swayed to the music.
- “Battu”expressed the joy of movement in an authentic West African dance
- “Nora Harsik”, a serious and beautiful Armenian wedding dance, was performed by girls age 5 through 9. The melody was haunting and the dance steps spoke an ancient language of a country steeped in tradition.
After the show it was apparent that the performance had a profound effect on many of the families in attendance. The audience came onto the stage to take pictures with their child and the Dancetime by Stephanie staff. Children and teachers were showered with flower arrangements, hugs, and words of congratulations. Though we featured many cultural dances we were reminded of some that we missed! One of our favorite parents, SetarehTorabian-Riasati, said “We would have liked to have seen an Iranian dance. Persian culture goes back thousands of years! You should check out our music and history!” I was touched that our show inspired feelings of cultural pride among our families.
HOW TO “DANCE AROUND THE WORLD” WITH YOUR CHILD
Learning dances from around the world helps your child to gain cultural appreciation. Judith Lynne Hanna’s 1999 book, Partnering Dance and Education confirms this, “Learning the dances of other cultures helps students to develop an understanding and respect for them.” Children have a very natural response to music. Your child will develop musical appreciation from listening to a variety of world music. Play some music from a different country and see what kind of dance your child creates. Dance with your child and encourage movement according to the tempo and mood of the music. Dance gracefully and gently to slow music perhaps with a colorful scarf that floats through the air as you move. Twirl, jumpor clap to accent the fast tempo with your movement. Some musical recommendations that will have your child dancing to the world rhythm:
- “Battu” by Angelique Kidjo, West Africa
- “AnahAvdah” DovidGabay, Israel
- “Pearly Shells” Starlite Singers, Hawaii
- “Riverdance” Celtic Roots, Ireland
- “Zou Bisou Bisou” Jessica Pare, France
- “Ye Ishq Hai” Shreya Goshal, India
Don’t forget to point out each featured country on a map, or better yet, a globe! Discuss the shape of the country and which continent it is located on. Children enjoy seeing how near or far the country is to where they currently live.
You can also purchase the Dancetime by Stephanie “Dancing Around the World” DVD at www.dancetimebystephanie.com Children enjoy watching the show and learning all of the world dances that are performed.
“WHAT SHOW ARE WE GOING TO DO NEXT YEAR?”
The best feedback I get is from my students who overwhelmingly loved participating in the show. Iris asks “What show are we going to do next year?” I look around at 12 expectant faces. For once my entire class of preschool students are still and focused. All eyes are on me. Little do they know I’ve already begun outlining the 2015 show as new themes and ideas begin taking shape. But I shrug, and smile, and say “It’s a surprise.”