My artists residency is at The Ellison Park Early Education Center in Mattapan, MA. This residency is based around the Radio City Christmas Spectacular that is being held at the Wang Center December 3rd through December 29th, 2010. As a teaching artist, I am to present dance, movement and choreography using other winter holiday celebrations as my jumping off point (i.e. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Thanksgiving, Carnivale, Epiphany…).
I have had great success using yoga as an entry point with kids. They all seem to love the focus it brings to them and the moments of intense focus that I am able to help them reach are quite profound. When the stillness and breath is the only thing notable in the room, a gift blossoms inside each child, even if for only a second. The first few days of the residency were based solely on yoga (first in relation to the seasonal change and the winter solstice; second in relation to Ahimsa or peace).
My assistant Carol Grossi Smolinsky brought a very interesting holiday tradition into our planning stages. She had recently traveled to the Bahamas and had experienced Junkanoo: Junkanoo first began as a temporary celebration of freedom for slaves who were given three days off at Christmas time. Donning scary-looking masks, slaves played homemade musical instruments (drums and bells) and cavorted about freely on the island.
Carol has very enthusiastically taught the students about Junkanoo by showing them videos of the parades, telling them the history and last class, she brought in cups and rice and each student made a maraca that they will use in their Junkanoo parade and later also in their flamenco dance. I have learned a lot along with the students and most interesting to me is that Junkanoo was created in the 17th century by a repressed group of people which relates to the origins of flamenco, also in the 17th century, a a repressed people, the gypsies.