SAINT PAUL, Minn. (Dec. 1, 2011) — The Dance to Learn program at Ordway Center for the Performing Arts takes the stage in its fourth year with a unique cross-site performance and reflection event happening today in the Ordway’s McKnight Theatre, where new original work will be presented to children from a handful of schools by local choreographers Karla Nweje and Leah Nelson.
Supported by the Ordway and the Perpich Center for Arts Education’s Professional Development and Research work in arts education partnerships, Dance to Learn is a multifaceted dance education program. Dance to Learn–the recipient of this year’s Traveler’s Arts and Diversity Award–seeks to support and/or introduce dance in K-12 education; personalize the experience of attending a dance performance at the Ordway; encourage and facilitate critical thinking about live performance and arts-based instruction; and work towards inclusion and equity in arts-based instruction, all while having fun.
This year’s Dance to Learn program includes students from Sheridan Hills Elementary in Richfield, Minn.; The Lab at Journey’s Secondary School in Saint Paul, Minn.; and Fair Oaks Elementary in Osseo, Minn. Twin Cities choreographers Nweje and Nelson will both set original works on dancers Ma-Eyongerie Frambo, Tahirah Witelaw, Deja Stowers, Kenna Cottman, Destiny Davis, Juenell Greene, Roxane Wallace and Aneka McMullen in the cross-site performance and reflection event.
“Dance to Learn was really created because, through the experiences of teachers and students that came to the Ordway’s dance performances, it was clear that there was a missing foundation in the understanding of teachers and students about the basics of dance as an art form and form of expression as a result from its exclusion from the curriculum in many schools,” says Shelley Quiala, Ordway’s director of arts education and community engagement.
The program structure begins with personalized school visits from a design team, which sets out to formulate a year-long plan for the specific school and classrooms participating. Over a four-month timespan, students attend three dance performances at the Ordway with each performance being followed-up by residencies in the classroom with teaching artists and the design team, wherein observation, reflection and performance elements are workshopped.
The cross-site performance and reflective event at the Ordway is the second of three performances the school children will be attending. The third and final performance will be Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence dance company from New York in its presentation at the Ordway in January. The first performance was Luna Negra Dance Theater last October.
Dance to Learn
The Dance to Learn program started in 2008 when the Ordway, the Saint Paul Public School District and the Minneapolis Public School District were awarded a Whole School Improvement Grant from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to support the year-long project. The program has since received other national recognition by The Minnesota State Arts Board, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Hearst Foundation. For more information visit http://ordway.org/education/programs/dancetolearn/.
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
The Ordway is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading nonprofit performing arts centers and Saint Paul’s most elegant and inviting performance space. The Ordway’s Music Theater and McKnight stages attract diverse audiences with an array of productions showcasing the finest in American musical theater, world music, dance and vocal performance. Education and community engagement are integral to the Ordway’s mission, with major initiatives including the annual Flint Hills International Children’s Festival and Ordway Education programs that serve more than 50,000 students annually. The Ordway also serves as authorizer for the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, a professionally guided academic and artistic environment that trains aspiring pre-professional performing artists. Together with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Opera and The Schubert Club, the Ordway is a member of the Arts Partnership and serves as the principal venue for their performances. For more information visitwww.ordway.org.