Morning T: What It’s All About

Twice a week I meet with T in the time between his bus arriving at school and when homeroom begins. On average, this is about 24 minutes per week.

During our time together, we explore meaningful dance. T is a natural mover, a lover of dance, and has the spirit of a dancer. A real dancer. I don’t use the term lightly.

T is unique in many ways but his passion for dance sets him apart from most of the hundreds of students I have taught throughout my career. In our first meeting, I asked him about his favorite style of dance. Being a 7th grader and knowing his history of dance classes, I expected him to say hip hop. Instead, he paused in quick but solemn thought and answered “All of it. Just all of it. It doesn’t matter what it is.”

T and I meet because although he’s an ardent dance lover and a student in a performing arts magnet school, his parents elected for him a supported reading class instead of dance. I understand; T needs the help. Yet, on my first day at this school, he introduced himself and told me he wanted to be in my class. In fact, every day that week he told me he wanted to be in my class. Even his literacy teacher told me he’d rather be in my class. So, she and I started talking further.

She shared with me some of T’s writing and some of his reading assignments. We talked about his experiences in identifying main plot points and point of view. The more information she offered, the clearer the picture became for me. We needed to get him thinking in the studio with body and mind working together to make images sharper, sequences more linear, events more meaningful.

Within seconds of working with him, it was obvious to me that T’s first language is movement. His body understands movement intuitively. I offered technical notes while teaching him a brief phrase and he applied them as if he’d been working this way for years (he has not).

In the last couple months, we’ve worked on two main phrases:

One explored the narrative he’d been reading and allowed him to put into movement the main plot points of the story. We layered this lesson with generating non-technical movement and playing with the duration of time a gesture lasts to mark significance. He manipulated movement that I offered him and he added on his own.

The second was based on his reading and writing informational texts about Komodo dragons. We put his words into action with a balance of technical, literal, and abstracted movement. His writing became the score and he spoke while he danced. The topic and use of terms allowed us to choreographically explore motifs.

And it has all been done organically, seamlessly, intuitively.

On the days (like yesterday) when I get distracted by the obstacles of being in the first year in this position, or any other series of challenges, I must look to the other minutes in the week that add up to such significance for my students and for me.

Next week we compare and contrast.