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African-Caribbean Dance Workshop

This participatory dance workshop is designed to introduce participants to the rich and living culture of the African/Caribbean people as experienced in their dance, rhythm, and song. The dance, drums, and song are vital means of expression; they connect and bring together the individuals of the community and help the people make connections between God, the deities (lwas), nature, and humans. In this workshop, participants gain a deeper understanding of, and respect for, the spirit of the people and the spirit that dwells within us all.

Such dances as Belea from Martinique and Kongo as well as Nago from Haiti will be explored. Students will be taught to not only dance, but clap and sing the rhythmic patterns of these particular dances. This will enable them to internalize the rhythms and integrate the feeling of the rhythms into their movement.

Dance warm-ups, appropiate for the age group, will be taught for each session to prepare the students to dance. The warm-ups will familiarize students with their bodies and teach them essential dance vocabulary and technique, for example, plie, releve, parallel, turn-out, isolation, stretch and extension. Using universal themes for the dances (such as fear, hatred, and love), students will explore individual expression through guided improvisation.

Children will learn how to respond to the rhythms that accompany the dances by clapping and singing the rhythmic patterns. Songs will be taught that accompany certain dances. To broaden their awareness, children will learn about the musical instruments and important cultural aspects of the countries where the dances originated.

Programs adaptable for grades K-12.


Haiti in My Soul: African-Haitian Dance Workshop

In Haiti, dance, drum, and song are vital and essential means of expression; they draw the individual and the community together. They help strengthen the connections between god, the deities, nature, and humans. In this workshop, we will learn sacred and secular dances, paying careful attention to the bond between dance, rhythm, and song. As with most African-derived cultures, the Haitians know it is necessary to be in harmony with one's surroundings. The dances address the natural and supernatural forces, so that in their execution, we might find within ourselves that ingredient necessary to develop that sense of oneness.

In the dance called "Yanvalou" the movements are symbolic of the lwa "Papa Dambala" (the "snake god"). Therefore, the fluidity of the dance is correlated to the movement of the serpent. The powerful chest and arm movements of the dance "Nago" (associated with the "Ogun" deities) represent the invincibility of the warrior god.

These qualities of the dances are transmitted to the students to enhance their understanding of and respect for the spirit of the Haitian people and for the "Spirit" that dwells within us all.

The African origins of Haitian traditions are apparent throughout religious and secular Haitian dances. In addition to learning about the origins of these dances, students will learn about African cultures that are the roots of today's Haitian culture.


Hear the Beat...Dance the Story

Linking the myriad and varied cultures of Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas is a reliance on music, dance, and the oral tradition of story telling for celebration and communication. Using movement, voice, and dynamic percussion instruments, Pat Hall and Pam Patrick, will weave a rich tapestry of centuries old traditions from around the world, showing stark similarities and celebrating differences. Students, invited to sing and dance in this highly interactive program, will experience an elemental form of human interaction that transcends time and place.

Hear the Beat...Dance the Story is an interactive program of dancing, stories, and music for an audience of K-3 or 3-6 students. This program is also suitable for special needs students and can be adapted for older groups. The first story is a Haitian folktale about a queen who loves to dance, and she does. After the tale the audience is taught a "call-response" song in Haitian creole and invited to dance with the queen. The program concludes with another musical story from the Caribbean after which the audience is again invited to sing and dance. The particular stories and songs are subject to change according to the group. For example, a Native-American creation myth, a Brazillian legend, or an Ananse story from Ghana could be interchanged.

Most recently, Hear the Beat...Dance the Story developed and implemented a multidisciplinary, multicultural arts residency for third graders at C.E.S. 63 in the Bronx. The year long program culminated in an enormously successful community wide performance. Both the residency and the performance were applauded by its primary sponsor, the New York City Public Shool's Division of Multicultural Education.

"You were fabulous. The children young and old just adored you. The teachers are raving - you really did something magical here. Thank you for sharing your light and your energy."

Hear the Beat...Dance the Story is a multidisciplinary teaching and performing company that offers workshops and performances for students and audiences of all ages.

Copyright © 2020 Pat Hall
photo by Patented Photos