GASP Grant - 2016 / by Kara Starkweather

Antonia Bruce - "Dancers"

Antonia Bruce - "Dancers"

Mendocino Dance Project received the GASP (Get Art in the Schools) Grant this year thanks to the Arts Council of Mendocino County and the Mendocino County Office of Education. The mission of the program is to infuse exposure to high quality art and creative expression in the school system of Mendocino County. Our first two GASP projects are with third graders at Dana Gray Elementary and second graders at Redwood Elementary both in Fort Bragg.

The third graders had a mixed response at first, some children were terrified that they would have to dance in front of other people, some students couldn't wait to show off their break dancing moves.

We explored the question "why dance is important" with the students in the first session. The answers ranged from exercise and fun to inspiring others and pushing ourselves. Finally one boy raised his hand, his moon face radiant under a mop of blonde curls, and said "Dancing brings out the best in us."

After a few weeks of instruction with the third grade, students who at first were terrified to move in front of their peers are expressing themselves through their bodies and exploring new ways of moving. We've even seen students circling up to compare new moves over recess. Sharing the power of dance to these students has been inspiring and fun. In a few short weeks they will be ready with a performance exploring animal habitats through motion.