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Natalia Valerdi-Rogers

Mark Twain once said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Yet, my recent trip to San Francisco was warm and sunny, recharging my dance teaching skills at the K-12 Dance: Standards in Action conference, hosted by the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO). This conference provided tools and strategies for implementing the new National Arts Core Standards (NCAS) in Dance.

I arrived late on a Friday night, ready to wrap my head around the new standards. To my delight, I found myself dancing with a room full of dance teachers early on Saturday morning. Through the NCAS website, I had learned that the new arts standards are founded on four Artistic Processes: (1) Creating, (2) Performing/ Presenting/ Producing, (2) Responding, and (3) Connecting. The first breakout session included practice and dialogue around creating and performing. The lesson prompt was Bella Lewitzky’s choreography Impressions #1 (Moore), dances inspired by the sculptures of Henry Moore. The second break out session continued with this prompt, addressing responding and connecting, pushing us to articulate our values through the language of the standards.

Several of the workshop facilitators who were also writers on the Cores Standards Dance Task Force, helped clarify the interpretation of the standards. For example, the term “performing” should be interpreted as embodying a movement idea, rather than performing on a stage. I recognized this process-oriented approach from The Understanding by Design (UbD) Framework, or backwards design, which all CoTA artists use to develop our collaborative projects. Coincidentally, UbD was also used to build the NCAS themselves, making them a perfect fit for CoTA.

One of the most inspirational presenters was scholar Rima Farber, chair of the Core Standards Dance Task Force. She urged us to experience movement ideas ourselves as we develop lessons for our students, before getting caught up in the standards. I joined the K-3 focus group she moderated, where we started talking about children’s development of personal boundaries. Several K-3 teachers coming from different parts of the country expressed similar concerns, which made me wonder about this generational phenomenon. How do we reach these children?

The theme of personal boundaries continued during another session with Kathy Ng, Director of Community Engagement at the Luna Dance Institute. She talked about “The Realities of NCAS Implementation in K-5 Urban Schools.” Her video documentation demonstrated how 3rd grade students in a diverse, urban school benefit from grounding movement warm-ups, helping them feel present in their personal space. With this foundation, they can build other skills such as collaboration, self-discipline and creative risk-taking.

The last day of the conference, we were provided with materials to make an art piece that connected our core values to the NCAS, CoTA-Project style. With that, I took a long walk around sunny San Francisco to take in what I had experienced. I am grateful to CoTA’s Dennis Doyle and Danielle Reo, and to Rising Arts Leaders who made it possible for me to attend this conference.