Bringing Children into Dances

 

On Whidbey Island, we decided we wanted more young people joining our dance circle. That decision was not based on the need of a new generation so we could hand off the dances and preserve them. It was about something else…something for both us and them. For them we wanted to offer the possibility of a deep connection to themselves, others, and this vast mystery.  For us, we wanted the innocence, lively energy, and the unique creativity they bring into a circle.

 

Very rarely has a young person come to our dances. If they have come with a parent, they’ve often sat on the side. In considering why, we thought we needed to do a better job of asking young people to come. We also needed to have a program that engaged them. To do this, we planned a special family event.

 

For our family dance, we considered dances and activities that would appeal to both young and old. We wanted the parents to be as enthused about the event as the kids. We also looked at structuring things to allow for the changing energy levels of the children. We then considered how to best “market” the dance. What parents, groups, or schools would most likely have children who would attend? Then we set about personally contacting them.

 

On the Saturday evening of the dance, we anxiously waited for our dancers to arrive. Ten minutes past our starting time, we had two young girls with their mom, who was one of the event coordinators. Well, we at least had two children and we were going to have a great time. Then, two by two or three, parents and kids started arriving. That’s Whidbey Island time. Soon we had 9 children and 14 adults.

 

We started off the dance with “Allah Hayy”, followed by “I Open My Eyes to You,” “Funga Alefia”, and “In My Heart”. Next we did a short guided meditation from Creative Visualization with Children by Jennifer Day. Then long colorful Indian saris were stretched out. Adults held them above the floor and sent waves rippling along their 27 foot length.  The children crawled underneath and listened to a story that went along with the next dance. From there, we went into “Saludo “(a dance from the Andes), and finished with”Long Tail Feathers”. Everyone tied long pieces of crepe paper onto their arms for special effects for this dance.

 

Everyone agreed it was a fun and joyful evening. And you could really tell by the expressions on the kids faces. Most of the children were younger, so the two teens (14 and 15) said they enjoyed it, but didn’t know if they’d come back.

 

We’re planning to have another family event this summer, and will include a picnic. We want to continue to develop programs that are inviting to all ages. In each of us, there’s a little child singing in our heart. Having young people at our dances will help bring this out.

 

Bob Effertz

Dance Leader, Whidbey Island, Washington

Burmabob2@hotmail.com