Dancin’ at Camden-Rockport Middle School

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Erma teaches dance – This post is contributed by Dancer/Artist/Educator Erma Colvin

8o's dances of the decades 2011

I am a dance educator at Camden –Rockport Middle School in Camden, Maine. I have a BFA in dance performance. My dance journey has taken me from the love of performing, to the love of teaching dance to middle school students as a part of their academic studies. It has been a rewarding journey. Seven years ago I took a job as a substitute teacher with the ulterior motive of learning the academic curriculum, getting to know the teachers, and seeing where I could insert my dance training and knowledge into the school day.

No Child Left Behind and the “teaching to the test” have made my quest more of a challenge. My personal mission statement:

All children should feel comfortable with their bodies and enjoy expressing themselves through movement and dance.

This is most evident in the middle school population. The pre-teen years are a time of discovery and change, physically and mentally. For most students (particularly the boys) dance is tied to social events and all of the insecurities there in. I want all of the students to discover that dance is an individual activity that helps one develop self-esteem and just feel good inside.

la cucaracha dance

Working with the 6th Grade Social Studies teacher, I developed a dance component for his academic unit called “Late 20th Century”.  Through dance, the students became a part of those decades. My success with that program is documented through 100% attendance during the residency week and the continuing mention of the event through high school. We are now in our 7th year. The new 6th graders are already asking me about the dances that will not take place for another 8 months.

This year, I collaborated with the 8th grade Spanish teacher to celebrate the National Hispanic Heritage Month. I was concerned that the 8th Graders would be more self-conscious than the 6th graders. I was pleasantly mistaken. All of the students were eager to get involved. I taught traditional dances from Hispanic countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The 8th grade Spanish teacher gave the students Spanish vocabulary and we taught the dance classes in Spanish (as best as I could, not having a Spanish language background). Students also researched the different dances and created a slide show to accompany the dances.

Erma at the state-wide arts coference, At the Creative Center, the Arts in Maine Schools in 2007

There are many different ideas of how dance should be taught in public schools. Dance can be taught through the Performing Arts program, Physical Education and integrated into the academic curriculum. My interest is in the third choice. Learning dance through the academic curriculum has benefits. It does not take away from the precious academic time. It introduces dance to the entire student body. It connects students to real people in other cultures and time periods. It brings classes of students together to work on a group project. Dance is an integral part of the human experience. I hope students will keep these experiences in their memories for years to come.

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