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May 3, 2019
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Dancing Through Cultures for More Than a Decade

While the typical Newark Academy school day can include a rigorous schedule of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes, there is one class that engages both the mind and body in a unique way: IB Dance. During the two-year International Baccalaureate Dance course students focus on composition, performance and analysis as they study dance forms and styles from a range of cultures and traditions, both familiar and unfamiliar. Students also apply the skills they develop in other academic classes as they research and write several substantial essays.

The beginning of the spring semester is devoted to the study of world dance, as professional dancers come to teach master classes in a variety of forms —including, this year, Bharatanatyam, Salsa, Capoeira, Fosse and Hip Hop. Learning new dance styles can inspire student-dancers to bring new movement vocabularies, rhythmic patterns, choreographic styles and intentions into their own practice. “As a dancer, the more styles of dance you learn, the more expressive and creative you can become as you find your choreographic voice,” says IB Dance teacher Yvette Luxenberg.

Yvette has been teaching at NA since 2003 and introduced the IB Dance class 11 years ago. She understands the importance of bringing in experts to broaden the range of her teaching, and, as a model for lifelong learning, she takes an active role in absorbing the new styles alongside her students.

The class also serves as an important cultural resource for the whole school, including through an annual performance at NAPA’s International Dinner. This year, the students danced the Bharatanatyam piece called “Pushpanjali” — an offering of flowers — while dressed in authentic Bharatanatyam costumes. “It’s a cool experience to be a part of the night,” says IB Dance student Sophie Gilbert ’19. “It pushes you out of your comfort zone in a comfortable place in front of your parents.” Reflecting on her experience in the course, she says, “I’ve gotten a lot more exposure to different dance styles and have become more of a worldly dancer.”

Indeed, a primary goal of the class “is to encourage students to learn things outside of what is familiar to them,” according to Yvette. “Dance is a universal language that can be used to connect people. When you learn another form of dance, you appreciate someone else’s culture and you can see how your culture, your language and your knowledge may be both different and similar. This is extremely important for our students because we want them to be global citizens who can respect and appreciate other cultures.”

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