Legacy of dance grant will live on

Perpich Center for the Arts grant went to LILA in FL

LILA teachers Raul Arroyo (Minneapolis), Jenni Muras (Hugo), Fred Moreno (Oakdale), Claire Gilbert (Forest Lake) and Jade Hibbard (White Bear Lake) enthusiastically demonstrate the five elements of dance: body, action, space, tempo, and energy. LILA developed Spanish curriculum materials as part of the Perpich Center dance grant. (Photo submitted)

It’s Monday morning at Lakes International Language Academy, a Spanish and Mandarin Chinese language immersion public elementary school in Forest Lake.

“Attention, attention, Lilavision will begin in one minute,” blares over the loudspeakers in Spanish, prompting students to turn on their classroom televisions for the student-produced morning news.

First is an announcement inviting students to an upcoming family dance night with an international “Carnaval” theme. A later video shows four students dancing to the music of a Native American chant. The student announcers explain that the performers choreographed the dance themselves.

In a fifth grade classroom, students applaud and make plans to use the gym during recess to create their own dance. Afterwards, their teacher leads them in a morning meeting activity. Students create actions to represent natural disasters and the class combines them into movement sequences. Dance making and movement have become student-led and commonplace at LILA.

Almost two years ago, LILA received a dance grant through the Perpich Center for the Arts in Education, located in Golden Valley. Called the Arts Courses for Educators Dance Program, the grant has allowed LILA students and staff to learn how to integrate dance into their curriculum. The grant strives to not only expose students to a variety of dances but also empower them to complete descriptive reviews of dances and even create their own dance choreography.

Through the grant, a team of teachers attended workshops at the Perpich Center several times each year, and a Perpich Center teaching artist held teacher and student work days at LILA.

A Real Benefit

Diane Aldis, the professional development and research specialist for the Perpich Center for Arts Education, has been delighted to work with LILA.

“The ACE-Dance Program has benefited tremendously from LILA’s expertise and multi linguistic focus,” she said.

“Over the two years of the program, the LILA ACE team has developed bilingual resources and lessons for Spanish-speaking students. LILA teachers have also presented workshops on dance and its role in cultural identity and expression in Latin and Central America as part of the statewide ACE workshops.

“Thanks to the encouragement and practical help from LILA, we included both Spanish and English versions in our new posters on the Elements of Dance–and our next version will include Chinese as well!”

LILA physical education teacher and ACE-Dance team leader Jenni Muras said, “The grant teaches students that dance can be as simple as pretending to be a growing flower. Or, it can be as complex as improvising a dance using polyrhythmic West African movements.”

The impact of the ACE dance grant can be seen throughout the school.

Many students have acted as school dance ambassadors by choreographing their own dances and performing them at LILA assemblies.

The teachers performed a flash mob at the staff talent show and many also regularly participate in a Zumba class as part of a new staff wellness initiative led by a LILA teacher.

An annual family dance night has become a favorite tradition at LILA.

Finally, teachers have begun to integrate dance and movement into the curriculum.

Teacher in Awe

Claire Gilbert, fifth grade teacher shared, “I am awed by the impact that the program has had on my students’ performance and attitudes across all subject disciplines.”

Her class has been participating in video conferencing dance lessons through the Cowles Center, a new dance education agency in Minneapolis.

“I will continue to use contacts I’ve made through the ACE dance program in future years,” she added. “The teaching artists have taught me academic ways to analyze and understand dance, which I will continue to pass along to my students and coworkers.”

Even though the two-year program is coming to a close, its legacy will continue to enrich the lives of LILA students for many years. Dance is here to stay.

To learn more about LILA, call the school at 651-464-0771 to arrange a tour.