When you catch yourself jumping around your classroom with your arms swinging, and your students laughing joyfully while dancing alongside you, you know something exciting is going on. In my classroom, an incredible series by Hannah Beach, called I Can Dance, brought us that excitement.
The I Can Dance series is made up of six stunning books that can be used individually or as a group. The collection is beautiful and engaging. The moment I looked at it, I knew it would be a success in any room, and this proved to be the case in my own. Whether you choose to introduce this series of interpretive dancing through talking of animals (“I can dance the zoo”), food (“I can dance my dinner”), textures, colours, feelings or the outdoors, students are sure to catch on to the inclusive, non-threatening approach to dance.
In these books, students are encouraged to move their bodies however they can, and teachers are invited and expected to share in the experience. Each book begins with some suggestions for teachers – outlining an appropriate philosophy with which to undertake this inclusive dancing process, and scaffolding a teacher in her/his teaching experience. Each also comes with a CD, which offers the teacher and students different options (listening to the book with or without guided facilitation; and exploring each concept within the book separately.)
What I appreciate most about this series, in addition to its non-judgmental approach to movement and dance, is the diversity it includes. Some of the children dancing in the book have disabilities. To see, for example, a student who uses a wheelchair modeling dance to other children, is a quiet but profoundly inclusive signal to all readers of the series. To my mind, this is a significant lesson of the collection, although not its focus.
This series is a dynamic resource. While it can be used for dancing instruction, it also has a variety of cross-curricular applications. Teachers interested in dance, and safe and inclusive classrooms should consider exploring these books. They may also want to have a look at Ms. Beech’s other work, I Can Dance a Better World. You can bet I’ll be using that one too!
Martha Brown is a member of the Ottawa-Carleton Teacher Local.