More than 1000 Philadelphia school children lent a hand, arm, leg and torso to the creation "Class Act," a new work by choreographer David Parsons scheduled for a world premiere performance Jan. 5-7 as part of Philadelphia's Dance Celebration.
In April 1995, the Parsons Dance Company conducted a one-week in-school residency, working with students from Anne Frank Bethuen, Hartranft, Kenderton, Kirkbride, Lowell, Pennypacker, St. Ignatius, Shawmont and Southwark Elementary Schools, plus MYA (Middle Years Alternative) and Germantown High Schools. Pairs of dancers from Parsons visited each of the schools to give students a hands-on introduction to choreography.
Individual movements created by the children were combined to form a dance phrase, which was then combined with phrases from all 12 schools to create "Class Act." The entire process -- from the movements explored in the schools, to the crafting of the finished work in the Parsons studio -- was videotaped and integrated into the students' curriculum in the weeks before, during and following the residency.
Dance Affiliates commissioned "Class Act" to become part of the Parsons Dance Company repertory. It will be included in the five Dance Celebration performances to take place Jan. 5-7 at Annenberg Center. The Parsons Dance Company undertook this unique collaboration under the aegis of the Institute for the Arts in Education and Dance Affiliates. "Class Act" is a special commissioning project of Dance Affiliates, co-presenter of Dance Celebration with Annenberg Center.
Randy Swartz, artistic director of Dance Affiliates, says, "Parsons and his Company see their work with Institute for the Arts in Education as a model of how the dance community can be involved with schools. This epitomized the partnerships we are trying to create."Funding for this project has been made possible by a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation.
The Institute for the Arts in Education, a partnership program between the arts an educational communities, offers an intensive two-week seminar for teachers in July and oversees and implements an ongoing program of study and creative projects for thousands of students during the school year.
"Our goal is to take arts education an integral inseparable part of a school's life," says Shelly Dorfman, Institute found and director. "Live performances offer unique opportunities for teachers and artists to engage students in active learning."
Each year, the Institute works collaboratively with 30 professional artists; 16 performances companies and museums; and more than 200 teachers from 60 schools bringing arts education to more than 12,000 students. More than 1,000 of the latter have created the dance "Class Act."
-- By Ira Kamens, Philadelphia Playbill