By Kate Feinberg Robins, PhD
In my recent blog post Addressing Race in Ballet and Capoeira, I discussed Find Your Center’s commitment to bringing race and social justice explicitly into our dance and capoeira classrooms. Here I share my experience doing this with my 2-4 year-old Bilingual Creative Movement class in early June. This is part of an ongoing effort to decolonize our curricula and educate our students in social justice as well as dance and martial arts.
Tips for Addressing Race & Diversity with Young Children
The Lesson Plan
Bilingual Creative Movement is a 30-minute live online class for 2-4 year-olds. I teach the class in Spanish and English and teach pre-ballet and pre-capoeira concepts through creative movement. I've written this lesson plan in English, but my discussion with the children was bilingual. It was centered around the video "Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater" on the channel The Call to Unite.
Note: I skipped the introduction and started this video at 0:59 to make it shorter for my young audience. I could teach a whole different lesson just using the first minute of this video. I would focus on the concept of English and Spanish (which we speak in our class) being different languages, and tell the kids that people speak lots of different languages all over the world. I would ask the children if they recognize any words they hear in the video, and if anyone in the video speaks or looks like anyone they know. I would remind them how we say hello to each other in Spanish and English in our class, and then we would transition into the next part of our class.
Unity and Black Role Models
I like this video for young children because it is joyful while also acknowledging sadness. The "Bosom of Abraham" referred to in the song is a place of comfort. Children don't have to understand the reference or be raised in a Biblical tradition to understand the concepts of sadness and comfort. Families are dealing with the stresses of a pandemic, social unrest, and economic uncertainty. This lesson validates the negative emotions children might be feeling in their households, and helps them deal with those emotions by coming together through dance and music.
The coming together that children see in this video is multiracial. Because we are meeting online from our homes and the dancers in the video are also meeting online from their homes, it feels like they are coming into our classroom. We see dancers who look predominantly Black and mixed, joining a classroom of children who are white, mixed, and Latinx. This normalizes Blackness and normalizes racial diversity.
I also emphasize to my students that the dancers in the video are different from us in one important way. They are professionals. They do what we do, but better. These are the people we should look up to.