Sparking Magic Through Dance at Kalihi Kai Elementary
When Ballet Hawaii reached out to Kalihi Kai Elementary School Principal, Marc Kawahara, with an unexpected invitation for his students to attend the annual Nutcracker Angel performance –a wonderful tradition began. The school, initially enrolled in the national Turnaround Arts program designed to support schools in low-income areas, has made significant progress in the classroom. This ballet aligns perfectly with their artistic focus.
“…music and creative movement is something that many of our students are familiar with,” says Marc. “We do a lot of creative movement in our school, so being brave, taking risks, and stepping out of the box is something that really comes naturally to them.”
Armed with the program book in advance of a night at the ballet, many questions stirred among the students. “What should we expect? What is the ballet going to look like? What is the story behind The Nutcracker?”
“One thing that was interesting once the production started is many students were shocked to learn there are no words,” Kawahara explained. “That is a very different experience, especially because they’re expected to be told ‘this is this’ or ‘here is what’s happening.’ They have to do a lot of interpretation, which in itself is very good in regards to critical thinking and using your imagination to really understand what is going on in the performance.” This is especially transcendent as nearly half of Kalihi Kai Elementary students are English learners.
So, what is it that makes dance such a powerful tool in early childhood education? “Creative movement, visual and performing arts really activates the brain… it really helps engage students and increases learning opportunities,” shared Kawahara. “What I’m really looking forward to this year, as I do pretty much every year, is to see how students who’ve never been a part of this type of performance react to it. All of our students kind of react in different ways. Some are totally enamored by the set, some are amazed by the dancing, for some it’s diffcult for them to sit through a performance with not much speaking or no speaking at all. But, I think ultimately all of the students and staff members have a great appreciation for the performance.”