Moving in the Shadows: Dancing in the Library with Teens

It was my first time working the summer library camps. The experience was new from beginning to end, and I had no idea what to expect. I’ve always loved collaboration and trying new styles of dance. My challenge for the summer library programs was to figure out how to include dance and movement into the framework of optical illusion art, and even more so, how do you dance in a library and keep teenagers engaged?

I like trying different styles of dance. As a professional dancer, I pride myself on being like a chameleon with the ability to physically adapt to any genre of movement.

I began brainstorming with my fellow artists. My teaching experience has taught me that it takes most new students at least two classes to warm up to dance exercises, but I would only have two days total with each group. How would I make them comfortable enough to dance? While thinking about this my colleagues and I were literally dancing in our little corner of the office when an idea came to mind. We could use a shadow screen, light, and video. With the comfort of the screen to show everyone in silhouette, kids would feel freer to move without feeling judged. Luckily, I work with some amazing female artists who knew how to construct such a thing. I would even learn how to use a drill in the process.

Once the ideas were fleshed out, I had the fun task of coming up with the dancing. I wanted to have really fluid and fun walks in front of the screen. I decided to use air-walks and moonwalks even though I haven’t done break dancing for quite a while. I found some youtube tutorials and started to practice. The reviews from the students were mixed when we finally finished. Several kids expressed that they didn’t want to dance initially. However, they eventually did some really cool stuff. I also had several teens in the different camps who were into dancing and really liked what we did from the start. The librarians were very supportive of the movement aspect, which was very reassuring.

As the program ended, I still had my doubts. After the last day, I was at a friend’s house with my thirteen year old. My friend asked me about the library camps. I told her about the classes, and she asked me to teach her how to moonwalk. We were gliding around her kitchen when my daughter informed me that she’d been FaceTiming a friend, and they were both watching me. “My friends think you’re cool,” she told me.

Sometimes work and practice pay off in the most unexpected ways!