Dance Repertory Group

The Dance Repertory Group, a dance company that works primarily with dance improvisation, with financial support usually secured from Arts in Common (AIC is part of the Fitton Center for the Arts in Hamilton, OH), has produced performances in numerous Butler County elementary schools. The schools were selected because most tended to be located in areas where there are greater numbers of underserved populations.

One of the main goals of the Dance Rep is to provide artistic, educational dance experiences to children—experiences that are not only immediately entertaining, but illustrative of movement ideas with which the children can also experiment. Children love to move and are eager to explore new ways to use their bodies. This exploration can also relate to the structured educational goals of the classroom, if the classroom and special teachers provide input to us before the performance. Dance Rep strives to incorporate this material into our work in some way.

The Group is especially interested in working with children who are considered at risk—children who might otherwise have no formal exposure to dance performance. Each performance is 30-45 minutes long, depending on the age and attention span of the audience. A few years ago we added a more intense cultural component, hence dance movement from other cultures was incorporated in each performance.

The Dance Repertory Group uses an informance (speak, show) approach to performance and always physically involves some of the children in their work. Using pre suggestions from teachers has allowed the program to focus on curriculum material currently being studied at the school. Therefore, each performance is different, focusing on the needs of the children. Because movement appeals to all children and dance involves the other art forms as well, it is especially beneficial for those with special needs—from students in enrichment programs for the gifted to those in special education.

This work is especially significant because children are not often exposed to educational, artistic dance in elementary school. To see dance they must go to a theater and this greatly limits the exposure most have to the art form. Many dance performances are also not geared toward children. This is unfortunate because dance, which uses non-verbal communication, has something vital it can relay to all children. Those with problems sitting still can be attracted to the high level of activity and, if the activity can be educationally directed, there is a way to increase their personal body awareness and perception. Children regularly stay after our eclectic performances to ask questions and to "play" with our trunk of props. Their imagination is invigorated and they are truly excited about dance!

Typically the Group begins each performance with a dance warmup so the children can see this activity happening as they enter the performance space (the gym, cafetorium, etc.). The performance is structured so the children experience a variety of dance forms (tap, ballet, modern, jazz, ethnic) and music. Literature is used (generally something with which they might be familiar) as well as props, and we physically involve students in each performance in some way.

The main beneficiaries of the performances are the children who are introduced to dance that is highly entertaining to their tastes, stimulating to their imaginations, and educationally enlightening.