Defining “family” at Luna’s Open House

Posted on 08/19/13

As a new teacher to Luna, I was excited to participate in Luna’s first Open House in our “forever” home last September 8th. I invited some dear friends of mine who have a five year old and one year old to come participate in the Family Dance Class. I was particularly excited for their daughter Gianna, who had just begun Kindergarten, to experience dance at Luna. She, like her mother and father, had a clear love for dance, but had not always expressed a clear love for dance class. As Gianna and her family took their places on the floor to begin the Family Dance Class, I could see on their faces that they did not know what to expect. What would they be asked to do during the next hour? Within minutes of beginning the class Gianna was all giggles and smiles, and so were her parents. As the class picked up pace I noticed Gianna’s father making more creative choices in response to the teacher’s prompts. When asked to connect his shape to the shape his daughter was making, he would choose to connect with her with his nose, delighting his daughter to no end. It was wonderful to see this whole family “playing” together through dance.

The Family Dance classes at Luna are relationship based, so imbedded in the curriculums were many opportunities to gather as a family and then dance independently away.  I was particularly struck by a moment in the class when families were asked to connect to each other across the space by waving hello or blowing a kiss. After Gianna sent both her parents a kiss across the space, I saw her eyes search the room. When she spotted me, she blew a kiss across the space, claiming me as part of her “family.” It surprised me how much this small moment resonated with me, and made me think about the ways our culture defines “family.” Gianna’s mother later told me that they explain to their children that families are people who love and take care of each other. In Gianna’s mind, I fit the bill.

My favorite moment of the day however, did not take place in dance class. It took place later that evening, when I was visiting Gianna’s family at their home. Her mother called me in Gianna’s bedroom to show me what she was up to. She had covered every inch of her bedroom floor in blankets of every texture, essentially creating a “stage” on which she was recreating her rigid and stretchy dances from class earlier that day. She invited me in so she could teach me a class. Using a hard cover book as her drum and a plastic golf club as her mallet, she proceeded to provide me with rich suggestions of ways to move, including the prompt to create a “small, rigid dance close to the floor.” I was taken aback by all that she had absorbed from the days class, and with her fierce desire to claim this knowledge as her own.

I am now teaching my own dance class for Kindergarteners. Kindergarten can be such a big and sometimes overwhelming transition. There are lots of new rules to follow and new behaviors to learn. How beautiful it is in this time of transition to see a child claim new knowledge with such confidence. Gianna had been given the time to experiment with these ideas in dance class, and it was clear she now felt a strong sense of accomplishment in being able to articulate them in her own body and with her own words. She owned concepts of rigid and stretchy, fully in her mind and her body. Gianna’s mother felt compelled to share with me “This is how children should learn dance!” I have to say that I agree.

Ashlie Kirby     



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