Friday, June 1, 2012

Dance is Art

Alvin Ailey's inspirational life and work makes for a great dance/visual art springboard, I dare say. His story is about overcoming difficulties and following your dreams no matter how many challenges you face, you must persevere. Kids need to hear stories like that. The book Alvin Ailey by Andrea David Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney is a great introduction for kids on Ailey's life & passion.

The arts need to stick together in this day and age of education budget slashery, an insipid and pervasive focus on meaningless & costly high-stakes testing and disappearing pubic school arts programs around the country. That's why as much as possible, I try to integrate other art practices into my visual arts lessons, to help kids understand about art in all it's forms. 

Let me tell you something about the impact of seeing Alvin Ailey dancers has on my 2nd graders. They are amazed! They are inspired! They cannot believe that people's bodies can do those things! Our conversations are so much fun. We talk about dancers as athletes, how dancers bodies need to be trained and dancers practice just like we practice any instruments we play or hone our skills as visual artists by drawing and painting and sculpting. We talk about what a choreographer is and how they  design the dances that we see performed. Choreographers & dancers are artists of movement.

Then we talk about drawing bodies in movement.

I have some cool figure models that the kids can make move the way they'd like, to replicate the ways that a dancer can move.

We look at the models and break down the body in simple shapes. We talk about "proportion".

Then we trace and cut-out, in preparation for a mixed-media dance-painting. Add "lifts" so the dancers pop off the paper.

The background of the dance-painting should show movement too, so we use watercolors and do a little something pizazzy using salt. The water colors are a fluid paint that can move on it's own when you add more water...but when you sprinkle salt...well, the paint does a dance all it's own.

Our "finale" is a mixed-media painting collage that has the energy and vibrancy of an Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe performance!

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