YA Week Spotlight: Dodge Dance Initiative in Jersey City

Teaching artist Catlin Cobb keeping the beat going for her students.

In the spirit of National Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week (YA Week), I visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, P.S. 11, in Jersey City this past Wednesday. I attended the Dodge Dance Initiative (DDI), one of the Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania workshops. The DDI is a two hour after-school program where students in grades 3-5 worked with a teaching artist that integrated dance into the kids PE class.  

When I entered the school gym, the teaching artist, Catlin Cobb and twelve students were working on what the kids called the “Group Sculpture”. Each student, assigned with a number, was asked to jump onto the stage and freeze into a spontaneous form. There was one condition; each student had to physically connect and interact with the previous student, even if it was only touching by finger tips.  Ms. Cobb also made sure that the kids came up with different poses during every round. One of the girls picked the “Group Sculpture” dance as her favorite, saying “it’s always different and I can be anything I want.” 

The students showing off their “Group Sculpture”! 

In discussing the DDI program, Ms. Cobb said that the teaching process had become more fluent over the years: “There is the potential to make connections and build themes, emphasizing particular issues. For example, what I found extremely useful in this syllabus was the concept of “images, feelings, and actions” as the impetus for creating dance.”

One really intriguing concept was how Ms. Cobb would say the word “shape” instead of “freeze” or “stop.” This constantly reminded the kids to perceive their bodies as the medium for their dance - transformable into any form or pose. Watching the students dance across the gym and periodically freeze into their dance movement was fun and inspiring. It was very impressive to see kids so young collaborating and expressing themselves through dance movements.

I would like to thank the P.S. 11 staff, Ms. Cobb, and the YA New Jersey & East Pennsylvania staff for this wonderful opportunity to visit and observe their workshop.

Learn more about the National Young Audiences Week and the Dodge Dance Initiative.

Contributed by JuWon Park, Marketing & Development Intern at Young Audiences Arts for Learning

During the free style movement exercise, the students rolled, jumped, and crawled across the gym.

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