Last Tuesday, February 12, I went on a field trip to watch some 3rd graders perform Mexican dance at P.S. 163 on the Upper West Side. This Young Audiences New York (YANY) Residency, led by a YANY Teaching Artist, offered students the chance to learn about narration, movement and dance. Tied with the school’s Social Studies curriculum, the YANY residency program offered every 3rd-grade student a chance to take a residency program in African Dance or Mexican Folk Dance. The one I attended was performed by kids from the Mexican Folk Dance class, taught by the YANY teaching artist, Yloy Ybarra, who has been working with YANY for over 15 years!
During this 13-week residency, Mr. Ybarra met with the 3rd-grade kids once a week and taught them everything from basic warm-ups, the traditional manners carried by real Mexican dancers, to the handling of the props, such as hats and long china skirts. Yet, the “real” learning happened when the kids worked together, often accompanied by a new partner. The kids learned to deal with changing partners whether they liked it or not. As Mr. Ybarra puts it, “it all ties back to learning life lessons; sometimes we are going to be asked to do something we don’t want to do, but we have to learn to compromise and work together.”
This was my first visit to a YANY program and I found it to be exciting and surprisingly refreshing. Watching the little kids smiling and dancing on stage was adorable, and it was even more so when they gave their brief introductions describing what they learned before each dance. By “refreshing,” I mean, it made me realize once again what a profound effect arts in education can have on children. Watching the kids dancing with such energy on stage, it was clear that they have learned how to express the wealth of their feelings. One very unique aspect about this residency program was that it combined the students in the Gifted and Talented program and those in the general class, giving them a rare chance to socialize and collaborate on a long-term project. So it was as thought-provoking to me as it must have been to these little performers.
Lastly, I should take a moment to thank Mr. Ybarra, who, by doing so, helps kids become better people, as well as the staff of YANY and P.S. 163.
Contributed by JuWon Park, Marketing & Development Intern at Young Audiences Arts for Learning