Schools are now in full swing and we are in the midst of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month Sept 15-Oct 15). It can be easy to just make a bulletin board and decorate it, or talk about a famous and important figure of Hispanic descent with your students each week. However, it might be more fun and meaningful to have them learn about different traditional dance forms from various countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America. I personally find there to be value in bringing traditional dance in the classroom that you can’t get from a textbook.
Here are a few bonuses to bringing in an artist who grew up and can teach traditional dance forms:
Worried about justifying to your school administration on your lessons/unit? Feel free to mention all the Common Core connections to other academic subjects. When you introduce a new dance from another country, you talk about the geography (what continent, how far the country is from where you are, the climate), the history (time periods, colonization, independence) and you are also talking about the culture (food, language, holidays/celebrations). Learning these traditional dances can make learning about these topics more physical and provides a kinesthetic experience.
If you have your students watch video clips of these traditional dances happening in their context (country, by the people, for a particular celebration), then you can get into the English and begin to ask close reading text questions about a particular piece of choreography such as “what did you see? What did you notice?
It’s a way to learn about a new/different culture
It’s one thing to read about how a country celebrates a holiday that may be new to you or may be familiar but done in a different way, but it is another thing to embody the celebration through dance. When you learn a particular dance that is done for a specific occasion, it allows you to walk in their shoes of their culture. Students can gain an understanding of what the celebration is, why they celebrate it, when the celebration occurs, and how they celebrate.
Creates socially conscious and respectful individuals
As students gain an understanding of different cultures, it allows them to be more well-rounded and gain an appreciation for all people. For me personally, I have come to see that we are all very similar after all. Various parts of the world may do things slightly different from me, but those differences are cool and we come as we should to respect those differences.
If you are able to do this, my recommendation is to actually work with community and cultural members/organizations to bring in artists who have grown up in their respective traditions. This will give students a more authentic experience and they will get more out of it.
If you are in the NYC greater area, you can refer to the Arts & Cultural Education Services (ACES) Guide for an extensive list of organizations that you can reach out to and partner with for a variety of different services for your school. You can find the complete guide here!