North Springs Dance Students Collaborate During Shutdown

-From “Great FCS Schools,” Fulton County Schools website

Dance students at North Springs Charter High School took the shock and disappointment of the school shutdown especially hard. Not only was their spring show cancelled – like so many fun spring events students anticipate – but because dance is a group performance art experience that is difficult to replicate in a Teams meeting. “We are a movement/connection-based art form,” said Monica Noble, who co-teaches with Denise Kent in North Springs’ Visual and Performing Arts magnet program. “We thrive off people, atmosphere, energy and community.” The dance teachers knew they had to get resourceful to lift their students’ spirits and keep them engaged.

We could sense their morale change,” shared Kent. “So, we thought it would be a good idea to bring in some guest artists for inspiration.” That was when they conceptualized a cumulative dance/video project. “Somehow using our art to capture this historic event,” Noble said, “would really be a positive to come out of this negative situation.

They invited world-renowned modern dance company Pilobolus to collaborate via an online masterclass. Based in Connecticut, Pilobolus is a nearly 50-year old company whose dancers have performed in 64 countries and have been featured on the such television programs as the 79th Annual Academy AwardsThe Oprah Winfrey Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Kent and Noble already had a working relationship with the company, having previously had members conduct masterclasses while in Atlanta on tour. Pilobolus’ education arm teaches the company’s group-based creative process.

So, Co-Artistic Directors Renée Jaworski and Matt Kent as well as Matt’s wife, Education Director Emily Kent (no relation to Denise) joined forced with the dance teachers. With nearly 75 magnet program students attending the virtual workshop in mid-April, they brainstormed ideas and gave structure to the project, called “Creativity within Constraints.” The goal was to show how it’s still possible to create something with a movement and space-based art form despite the limitations of isolation. The Pilobolus directors empathized with the students’ struggles and renewed energy to think outside the box while choreographing dance movements within a box – the tiny, rectangular video shot. “We don’t go into the studio and teach all the steps to the dancers,” said Emily Kent. Instead, they provide a few basic directives as building blocks, and the dancers do everything they can think of to whittle the ideas down to satisfactory choreography to tell the story or express the feeling. “Think of what looks the coolest in this situation,” for body movement, added Jaworski. Once the videos were submitted, Matt edited them to music and incorporated them into one final piece.

“We were thrilled to engage with young artists from my hometown,” said Matt, a Lilburn native. “Our hearts went out to all the arts students whose shows and events have been cancelled. It is such an emotional blow, and we wanted to give the students an experience that would uplift them and activate their creativity.”

Recently graduated North Springs senior Carrington Moon shared, “I’m not one to get out of my comfort zone willingly, but this class was really good for that. I also enjoyed making a project myself which was definitely easier to do in the comfort of my own home.”

“It has been so much fun and inspiring,” recalled Noble and Kent. “We are very pleased with the final product.”

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