By Kate Feinberg Robins, PhD
In my 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 Children's Ballet class for 7-10 year-olds in early June. This is part of an ongoing effort to incorporate history and context into our dance and martial arts curricula.
Tips for Addressing Race & Social Equity with Grade School Children
The Lesson Plan
Children's Ballet is a 60-minute live online class that I teach for 7-10 year-olds. The class follows a typical ballet format with floor warm-up, barre, and centre exercises. I incorporate history, context, and critical thinking in a variety of ways. In this class we watched the 6-minute video "Dance Theatre of Harlem: Arthur Mitchell Tribute" published in 2019. This lesson built on another one that I discuss in my post on History and Struggle.
Ethnicity and Belonging
I like this video because it's joyful and celebratory. It reminds me of the triumphs that come out of struggle, the strength and resilience of communities, and the power that each of has to create a vision and see it through. These reminders are important in moments when it feels like we're struggling against all odds. For children who may not be as aware of the broader issues our society is struggling with, this video offers inspiration for the great things they can accomplish, both as students and as they grow up and become professionals.
This video also offered opportunities for my students to draw connections with their own lives. It gave them a window into a professional ballet school, which helped them contextualize their own training at a recreational school and gain respect for the art of ballet. It allowed us to explore in more depth the concept of ethnicity, which I had introduced in the previous class. We were able to make connections with ethnic groups in our own city, and with personal experiences of belonging and not belonging, social comfort and discomfort.
This video brings up many complex issues that can be discussed with adults and teens as well. It's great for all age levels because there are many subtleties that can be addressed or left alone, depending on the age group.