What comes to mind when you think of the African Rainforest? You may picture bright colors, soft warm mist, and exotic animals. It was my task to create a dance around that topic for a group of curious students last fall. The class was for students with multiple handicaps, so there were certain challenges I faced as an artist teaching this group.
In MH classes there are various abilities, and, as usual, a mix of personalities. What was special about the students in this particular group was their perspective and response. They naturally think like artists. They suggested different animals than most of my classrooms, like giraffe and parrots. One boy was always asking to dance like mythical creatures! Because of their creativity and enthusiasm, I was able to create a class and performance that was unique compared to what I’d done in the past.
One of the main contrasts was the idea of dancing on a canvas. Their classroom teacher told me they love painting and rarely get the opportunity. I incorporated this idea into their residency by having students dance with paint on their feet and with brushes to create a backdrop for their final dance. The backdrop was also used as a shadow screen in the beginning of their performance. With guidance from me and their classroom teachers, these students had a great time performing for parents, staff and peers. Although they all had different abilities, they all shared the same smile, and so did I.