Choreography in the Classroom
Suppose you walk into a middle school math classroom and entertain the kids by playing the video-clip of a very child-friendly classical dance accompanied by lovely music. At the end of the video, you ask kids to give any examples of “acute angles" from the video. How do you think that the kids would respond?
Whenever I have attempted this, I tell you honestly, the kids reacted as if they never expected this question. When I talk to teachers later, they endorse the point of view. Just look at any middle school textbook in math or science. You will find plenty of activities, but not many that make use of music or dance as math and science teaching methods. Strategies using music and dance, however, can have a great impact.
Music and dance are an important part of all cultures. Despite this, our textbooks do not exploit the potential of this aspect in enabling kids to learn lesson concepts. I don’t deny that computer games are an effective resource, if carefully and properly planned by the teacher, but our system has become too reliant on them as alternate activities.
In my own teaching, I have had the pleasure of using a wide range of classical dance forms from different cultures as math an science teaching methods. Strategies like this are useful to teach lesson concepts like angles, centrifugal force etc. Once kids get used to this media, they love it. In fact I have seen even parents enjoying dancing with their children as they watch their children relate lesson concepts with their movements.
In Kuchipoodi, an ancient Indian classical dance form, the dancer stands on a brass plate carrying a pot of water and goes one full circle without stepping out from the plate or spilling water from the pot. Similarly, in Odissi, the dancer swirls a brass plate round without ever disturbing its stability whatsoever. These are just two examples to show the high level of pleasant complexities involved in performing art forms that are being practiced for thousands of years in India. I have had the pleasure of using such dance forms in my classroom teaching and teacher development programs.