Creating an interest in dance in middle school aged boys might seem like a daunting task, but a collaboration between the Shubert Theater and the Pilobolus Dance Theatre has brought an athletic dance program to thousands of children since its inception.
The program started seven years ago when the dance theater began working with young boys in Cleveland.
“It engaged young men in a fashion that was amazing in the schools,” said Ruth Feldman, director of education and community outreach at the Shubert Theater. “The common language becomes movement, and they have to do problem solving with their body.”
After the initial success, representatives from the program approached the Shubert administration with the idea of a partnership. For the last six years, the partnership has been running programs in New Haven public schools.
“It was decided to do the program with middle-school-aged boys because they have the fewest male role models,” Feldman said.
The program, called Movin2, works with children in New Haven public schools over a period of four weeks. The classes utilize Pilobolus’ unique style of dance, using improvisation, collaboration and weight-sharing.
Feldman said the program tries to work with the children two to three times per week.
“I project that over 3,000 students, 300 teachers, in over 150 classes in the second grade through college levels have been involved,” Feldman said.
Dale Bernardoni, principal of Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School, said the program has been highly successful. Wintergreen Interdistrict Middle School has hosted the program for the last two years.
“You wouldn’t normally think that boys would sign up for a dance class,” she said. “However, this is probably the highlight of their day, if not of their year.”
The program works with boys in grades five through seven for class periods of an hour and fifteen minutes, and there are also three additional programs for other students at the school. Bernardoni said she hopes the children will create their own dance and possibly compose their own music for their performance at the conclusion of the program.
“There are multiple intelligences,” said Bernardoni. “For those kids for whom movement resonates with their skills and talents, this is a breath of fresh air.”
Pilobolus is a nonprofit corporation that has performed across the globe. In 1991, the company started the Pilobolus Institute, an educational outreach program that aims to teach creativity through dance choreography. In addition to the New Haven projects, the institute has worked with the Lincoln Center Institute, the Juilliard School and the Joyce Theater Arts in Education Program.
The name Pilobolus comes from a fungus of the same name that grows in cow dung. The fungus secretes shoots out its spores, giving them a greater chance of landing in a sunny area, Feldman said.