Whenever we coordinate a mixed media poetry exhibit for elementary schools like we did for third graders at Columbus Elementary School recently, there’s always dancing. Not often, not most times. There’s always dancing.
We have hosted approximately 500 students from ages 8 to 12 years old at 3 different schools over the last few years, and during the exhibits, we have witnessed all kinds of two-steps, shakes, twists and turns, and hops. Who would’ve known that Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool” or Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego-Tripping” contained or prompted so many displays of kinetic energy?
One main reason that the young people are inspired to dance while listening to poetry on our audio devices is because our contributor Al Henderson has added upbeat instrumentals as background music to some of the pieces. The music invites movement and dance among those children especially in touch with music, rhythms, and movement.
There’s virtually no dancing among the high school and college students who attend our exhibits. By middle school, perhaps, the “cool rules” have kicked in and young people who were previously inclined to dance decline to do so. Or maybe, students have been schooled into viewing dance and poetry as quite different affairs and so there’s reading and listening and little movement.
But many of the third and fifth graders we’ve encountered at our events are too educated to deprive themselves and their viewers of their dancing. When the music and poetry starts, they start moving.