I consistently say that the solution to harmful dance is healthy dance. Today is special because I get to back up that claim and introduce you to a wonderful dance organization: daCi(dance for the child international)! The 2022 daCi conference, organized by Norma Sue Fisher-Stitt of York University Canada and Nancy Francis of Brock University Canada, was designed for dance educators by dance educators. Because of on-going pandemic recovery, it was online. I was scheduled to speak on Wednesday July 13 with 2 other dance educators: Dr. Arshiya Sethi of India and Dr. Cecilia DeLima of Portugal. My talk was titled ‘Healthy or Harmful: National Experts talk about Children’s Dance.’(Surprise, surprise).
My goal was to educate colleagues with resources about ‘a pornified culture’ (a phrase created by Dr. Gail Dines) so that they received the researched information they needed to combat hypersexualized children’s dance. After the session ended, Cecilia, Arshiya and myself connected personally for quite a awhile. Don’t be surprised if you see their names as future authors in the dance newsletter.
Now let me dig deeper into daCi by sharing their mission, vision & a slice of some of the classes offered at this conference:
DaCi Vision: “Every child has the right to dance.”
“We believe that all children and young people should be able to express themselves through dance. Our aim is to create possibilities for children and young people around the world to experience dance as creators, performers and spectators. Through dance they can be physically engaged in the world and connect with others across boundaries of culture, language, age, or socio-economic status.”
DaCi Mission: “To promote the growth and development of dance for children and young people internationally, with respect for the ethnic, gender, physical, and cultural identities and all abilities of each young person within a spirit of international understanding.”
It was fun to take a session with Michelle Silagy; she talked about the value of inclusive movement that allows everyone to ‘dance’ immediately; she had a lot to say about improvisation and emphasized action responses from follow the leader to cause and effect. Santee Smith, a keynote speaker, focused on learning as well as unlearning (you know unhelpful conclusions from the past). Then came a session called ‘Dance As Self-Expression’ with Sophia McKain, Nickoleen DeGrasse-Johnson and Juliette O’Brien. Their focus? Everyone should dance, dance should come from within, and a wonderful reminder: ‘Dance is not just about learning steps’. That allows each child to be centered in their own identity because of a safe environment that structures sharing, collaborating and connecting.
Next came a wonderful session (there were so many; I wish I could highlight more) titled ‘Dance and Civic Engagement in the Community’ from Buffalo State. Presenters stressed the benefits of service learning and study abroad, experiential learning, cultural humility (understanding of other people and cultures where they’re at) and global citizenship (respect for others). Then they shared the nuts & bolts of class structure: preparation of the class, structuring the experience, time out for reflection, feedback plan, and closing the loop. I also have to mention kaleidoscope children’s dance theater founded by Anne Green Gilbert(retired) but ably directed by Anna Mansbridge. One session Anna taught focused on dances from the 16th and 17th centuries using children & adults as demonstrators. Loved it. Another video concert performance that Anna created during covid featured the music of Bach with children moving their gloved hands & fingers in delightful ways. Bravo for the creativity😊
It was a conference filled with incredible healthy dance flavors! I am full of the joy of movement that integrates mind, body & spirit. And a final mantra from the conference: “Don’t just do it; share it”. I hope that you are as encouraged as I am. Take some time to dance this summer. We’re wired to move when we’re children and we’re wired to move as adults. Just make informed choices when you go to pick a venue😊
Article promoting the right to dance by an interview with Dr. Susan Koff: clinical professor of Dance Education and most recently was director of the Dance Education program at NYU Steinhardt. She was formerly the director of the graduate Dance and Dance Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University.