A.A. Milne’s poem called The Four Friends:
Ernest was an elephant, a great big fellow,
Leonard was a lion with a six foot tail,
George was a goat, and his beard was yellow,
And James was a very small snail.
Leonard had a stall, and a great big strong one,
Earnest had a manger, and its walls were thick,
George found a pen, but I think it was the wrong one,
And James sat down on a brick
Earnest started trumpeting, and cracked his manger,
Leonard started roaring, and shivered his stall,
James gave a huffle of a snail in danger
And nobody heard him at all.
Earnest started trumpeting and raised such a rumpus,
Leonard started roaring and trying to kick,
James went on a journey with the goats new compass
And he reached the end of his brick.
Ernest was an elephant and very well intentioned,
Leonard was a lion with a brave new tail,
George was a goat, as I think I have mentioned,
but James was only a snail.
I then skittled back up room 117 and watched Mass Motion workshop: Social Dance and hip hop working with 4th graders. It was introduced by Mikki Taylor Pinney, the director and then the floor was taken over by two dance instructors. They explained that people dance for many reasons: cultural identity; sometimes we cannot express ourselves with words, so movement might be better; and sometimes we just dance for fun. They got all the kids up and had them move around the room. The space was not huge but the movements were not frantic and with easy directions and calm voices, they kept the kids using the space wisely. The kids were instructed to make any shape and freeze. Then they were instructed to a “high-level” sports shape, a “low-level” (on the floor) animal shape and then any shape in-between. They then added types of movement to the directions: move sharply, move swingy, move smoothly. And then they had them perform all of these at different levels of height (high, low, in-between). The kids moved around the room and were told to aim for open spaces, to try new levels on their own and then to try the swingy movement at the lowest level on the floor. The main teacher then had the kids focus and she began to teach a short African inspired dance routine. It was a Jimbe-which is a dance of the harvest. The steps were challenging but not too much for even the kids who were the least coordinated were still able after a few runs to be able to do all the steps. The kids were focused and were enjoying themselves and the teachers made the dance current and accessible. I am not sure if they also worked on a hip hop routine or just did the same dance to both African and hip hop music.
Close to 11:00, I caught the tail end of Mister G: Who Writes Songs? You Do! Performing for 3rd grade. Mister G is a solo act with a guitar and a mike. The audience was completely engaged with him. He had them singing and moving their hands, making rhymes (like swirl and whirl). He changed the music he was playing to change the style of the same song. He incorporated Spanish words into his song. I did not see enough of this act to comment more.
I was excited to see Jeff Davis: Massachusetts performing for 3rd grade and I was not disappointed. He was calm and soft spoken. He had the audience leaning in. I loved that he started by playing a Native flute and then spoke in the Native Massachusetts language spoken by the Wampanoag Indians. He asked the kids if they knew what language he was speaking and not one person knew, although they called out: French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian…and oddly enough it did sound like all those languages. Around him, he had set up nice black and white pictures on music stands and he had a number of instruments (the Native Banjo was especially interesting in look and sound). He easily tied in a history lesson as he spoke about the Wampanoag Indians and the arrival of the English in 1620. He brought with him a mouth harp and four more examples of the same instrument from different cultures and decades. I absolutely loved this show and would love to see him come to my son’s classroom. He has an extremely engaging way of delivering a history lesson and it is made more exciting as it is about our own state of Massachusetts. This was wonderful and I would highly recommend him.
I quickly went back to the gym to see George Russell: Clap Your Hands performing for 5th grade, but I had missed most of it. Another PTO rep from Lilja was their though. What I got out of my brief moment there was that they were suing Gospel music and how it related to popular culture. There was not a religious aspect to the show, or so it seemed.
Losing steam, but vowing to see three more shows, I stayed n the gym to see Shakespeare Guyz: Avon Calling performing for 5th grade. David Zucker, the poetry man, was one of the guyz, so I had a good feeling about what I was going to see. And it was GREAT! They were Monty Python-esque and started the show with an engaging clanging of swords and buffoonery. They explained that today there are 15,000 words and phrases in our language that were created by Shakespeare such as: alligator eat me out of house and home. They explained that Thou= You and Thy = Your and Speaketh=speak and many other olden language things and what they really mean. They quoted texts as they fought and clanged and broke it down n today’s English and wow! It made Shakespeare fun, fun, fun and totally understandable. They asked the audience to think of quotes they knew from Shakespeare and got the adult audience involved too. An alarm sounded while they were speaking (something to do with the school, not their show) and they played it off without a hitch. They uncovered Shakespeare in a fun and light way and ended with a totally humorous rendition of Romeo and Juliet.
The Bambidele: African Dancers and Drummers performing for 5th grade were next. Sekou and Marilyn are good friends of mine from the Dance Complex, Portsmouth New Hampshire and other children ventures we have shared the stage for. This is a very loud and exciting show. The costumes are brightly colored and totally authentic. Marilyn wears these outfits every day! She is a luscious, smiling, warm, inviting human being. She got kids up playing instruments dancing. Almost every kid had their hand up to participate and I think a number of us adults did too. She got everyone involved by having us clap and perform arm movements in our seats. Everyone was dancing and smiling and having fun. The kids got to take a bow with the musicians before returning to heir seats. Marilyn gave a nice history speech and talked about the African and Caribbean rhythms. She used African words in her talk and had us all repeat them. This was a TOTALLY INTERACTIVE WHOLE SCHOOL GETS INVOLVED type of show. I loved it. I left wanting more.
My final show was the Tanglewood Marionettes: Perseus and Medusa performing for 2nd grade. This show was fabulous, but I may be subjective because I love love Greek Mythology! No really, this was a wonderful very professional performance. I loved that the marioneteers were above the stage and not covered up so you could see them manipulating the marionettes. This was very special and added an element of movement to the piece that I was not expecting. The scenery was VERY creative and I loved how they rolled it up as the scene went along. They used a prerecorded soundtrack for their story but that did not detract at all and when the show was over, I wanted to see it all. It had kept me so engaged and I loved it. The puppets, the story, the actors, the scenery, everything! They made the story so exciting that I believe all children would be engaged. I know I hardly even noticed the kids in the audience because they were so enrapt.
Thank you to all the performers and staff and the school the kids, everyone! It as a great day. Can’t wait till the next one! Manguito is coming to Natick to perform and I know the kids will love them-YA is an awesome organization! Thank you for bringing great art to our schools!