DT Notes: Introducing Modern Dance to NYC Public School Populations

Paul Taylor Dance Company in Esplanade

The lobby of the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center was buzzing with patrons waiting to see the spring season premiere of Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance. Among the crowd was a group of New York City public school teachers, students and their parents. For many of these families, it was their first time visiting the prestigious venue—their first exposure, ever, to a live modern dance performance.

These families were part of a project to introduce modern dance to students and their parents. “Since some of these families were coming from Brownsville and East New York, Brooklyn, a visit to Lincoln Center is rarely, if ever, an experience in their lives,” says Rebecca Fagin, principal at PS 29 who participated in the program. “The dance was also so extraordinary and served to bring our community closer together.”

The brainchild of dance educator and advocate Jody Gottfried Arnhold and Taylor board chair Rick Stone, the idea started with a conversation about how to honor the NYC public school dance teachers’ invaluable work. It was decided the teachers would receive free tickets to the Taylor company’s 2015 spring season at Lincoln Center. But then it occurred to Arnhold and Stone: Why not widen the celebration?

The Koch Theater’s otherwise underused Third Ring, or “Tier 3,” seats had the space to accommodate more than just the teachers. So, last March, more than 1,800 NYC teachers, administrators, principals, students and parents attended Taylor performances at Lincoln Center.

This year the program will be enhanced by a number of educational components: a study guide, a pre- and post-performance workshop conducted by a Taylor representative and a professional development workshop for teachers.

“Here in NYC, out of the thousands of public schools, only around 400 have certified dance educators,” says Taylor alumna and director of The Taylor School, Raegan Wood. “Many students have little or no exposure to dance as an artform. Over the long term, it can provide a foundation for students to experience and articulate the richness of life—the inner life as well as the outer.” DT

Betsy Farber is a New York City–based writer and editor who’s written for The L.A. Times and Huffington Post.

Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy of Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance



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