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Everybody Dance Now!

So, Mr Fares, you think you can dance, said Year 2. Yes, said Wenona’s Head of Dance when he came to talk to Ms Peck’s students about why dance is his chosen form of self-expression.

As part of their latest PYP unit of inquiry into ‘How We Express Ourselves’, Ms Peck’s Year 2 students are pursuing the central idea: The Arts and figurative language are tools for communicating and expressing ourselves. They are exploring the Arts and its various forms: speaking, acting, dancing, drawing, painting, writing, singing. They are studying figurative language, such as similes, metaphors, alliteration, onomatopoeia, idioms and personification, and thinking about how we use words as a form of self-expression. And they are thinking about how the Arts and language are used to communicate ideas and express emotions.

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Last week, Teaching Assistant, Ms Butler-Nixon set up a wonderful display of objects and imagery in the piazza to prompt Year 2 to reflect on their emotional response to each display and what thoughts, if any, it provoked in them and why.

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Next to a bowl of red apples, there were written examples of hyperbole, metaphor and idiom. For example, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. He’s a bad apple. And you are the apple of my eye. It was a clever way of making Year 2 think more critically about why we choose to use figurative language in this way, as well as the effect it has on us.

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One of the most popular displays was a series of dance photos, featuring everything from ballet to jazz through the ages. It made Year 2 think about the ‘performing arts’ as a form of creative expression and how non-verbal forms of communication like dance allow people to express their innermost feelings, thoughts and experiences in a visual and imaginative way.

On Monday, Ms Peck invited Head of Dance, Mr Fares to come and talk to Year 2 about why dance was his preferred art form. Year 2 had just read Meerkat Mail by Emily Gravett about Sunny the Meerkat who lives in the Kalahari Desert, so imagine their excitement when they discovered that Mr Fares had starred in a stage adaptation of Meerkat Mail! And better still, he had a video recording of his show, which he played for them.

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Watching Mr Fares and his fellow dancers bring the story of Meerkat Mail to life through dance was an exciting experience for Year 2. It made them realise that dance is a natural form of self-expression and that it’s also a unique way to explore ourselves, the world around us and show other people what we see, feel, think and sense.

As Mr Fares explained, he uses human movement in the same way that an artist uses paint on a canvas. For him, dance is an art form for sensing, understanding, and communicating his ideas, feelings, and experiences. In fact, the elements of dance are like a form of figurative language and whether we are aware of it or not, we express ourselves all the time non-verbally through our facial expressions, our posture and our body language.

The students then discussed with Mr Fares how the stage adaptation of Meerkat Mail differed from the book and how bodies can show feelings in a way that’s different from words. How relationships can be presented physically and how changing movements can convey tension, separation, fear, strength and excitement.

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They asked Mr Fares lots of questions about how he’d become a dancer and how long it took him to learn his lines. And what happened if he fell over on stage, which was a great opportunity for him to talk about the importance of resilience and bouncing back on stage when something does go wrong.

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Then on Friday, Ms Wickham, Executive Assistant to the Principal and former ballerina, came to talk to Year 2. She played a gorgeous piece of classical music, while showing them photos of her dancing on stage. It helped them to draw the connection between music, emotions and movement. It made them reflect on how music has the power to inspire your body to create beautiful shapes. They were particularly fascinated to find out about dancing on your toes in pointe shoes, which, as Ms Wickham pointed out, is not exactly a natural activity. Pointework puts four times the body weight on your feet, so it's important to have a shoe that fits well so it supports your foot and ankle. Ms Wickham said she used to go through a new pair of pointe shoes every week when she was dancing. The highlight of her visit for Year 2 was her impromptu dance lesson in the piazza, taking them through the five positions of ballet, an arabesque and a plié. She decided to save the pirouette for another time!

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Year 2 have now been given the choice to research a form of dance, anything from hip hop to jazz, to ballet to ballroom. They have to compose their own inquiry questions, research their chosen dance form and present their findings to the class, explaining how it is a form of self-expression.

Over the coming weeks, Year 2 will also draw on their senses to create a piece of writing called 'A Moment in Time', describing in detail a situation when they felt strong emotion, such as the moment they scored a winning goal or unwrapped a birthday surprise. The students will then perform their piece in front of a green screen, focusing on how they use their voice to convey emotion.

Great learning Year 2!