For most fourth-graders in Henry County, school is on a screen this quarter. But Piedmont Arts and Southwest Virginia Ballet are bringing that screen to life through the dance and movement program, Dance Español.
Dance Español has been part of the Henry County Public Schools (HCPS) curriculum for a limited number of fourth-graders in previous years. This semester, with the ability to reach every classroom virtually, Piedmont Arts is offering Dance Español to all HCPS fourth-grade classes. The program will run for five weeks through art/music classes, beginning October 19, 2020.
Once a week, Pedro Szalay, the dynamic artistic director of Southwest Virginia Ballet, will lead a virtual lesson that weaves together Spanish language, basic movement, music appreciation, pattern memorization and awareness of mind, body and space in a fast-paced 30 minutes. Szalay films his lessons inside the spacious, high-ceilinged dance studio that is home to Southwest Virginia Ballet. Each virtual class is accompanied by live piano music. Students will progress through a series of lessons that teach them how to use body language to identify and interact positively with others and demonstrate feelings through movements. Laurie Seidel, coordinator of the mindfulness program at Roanoke City Public Schools, served as a resource for this project.
In years past, Dance Español wrapped up with a free performance at each school hosting the program. The shows were lively, standing-room-only productions featuring music, dance, Spanish and history. Since students cannot gather for a final performance this year, teachers and parents who are willing to share photographs and video clips of student participants are asked to send them to Sarah Short, Piedmont Arts education coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. While this year’s Dance Español has a different feel, it continues to provide students with an important connection to the arts.