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Dancing to Learn

Arwyn Carpenter shares her work at Perth Avenue Public School By Sarah Lochhead
 
In our September/October 2017 issue, The Dance Current asked dance educators working in school boards across Canada to share advice for new dance educators. As part of the research process, Arwyn Carpenter, who teaches at Perth Avenue Public School in Toronto, shared this video with us.
 
Dancing to Learn shows students at Perth Avenue Public School and Carpenter in action – exploring, creating and moving together in the gymnasium. Peppered with comments from the students and Carpenter’s insightful articulation, the video demonstrates the benefits and transferrable skills facilitated through dance. 
 
In the video, Carpenter notes that the transformations she has seen in students through dance include, “Increased confidence, greater physical control, more developed ability to express thoughts and feelings, heightened focus on detail [and] greater willingness to take risks and show vulnerability.” 
 
When asked about ideas for activities to start the school year, Carpenter expressed that the power of moving together, in and of itself, is a great way to begin. “The diversity in Toronto public schools is so rich. My first position was at a school in Parkdale where every week there would be new students arriving to Canada, most of whom didn’t speak English. Dance was the commonality,” said Carpenter. “There could be fifteen first languages in the class, but when we moved we understood each other perfectly. [ … ] I love to have students pair up and cross with floor, walking on the beat. It’s so simple. So powerful. They watch each other walk and see each other in a completely new way.”
 
Carpenter‘s aim as a teacher is to demystify dance classes for men and boys, for students of limited means and for non-dancers of all body shapes and abilities. She believes the transferable skills achieved through dance include improved physical control and awareness, keener perception in relationships and interactions and a greater sense of wellbeing. She holds an MFA in Dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and has taught in the dance programs of York and Ryerson Universities, at Canada’s National Ballet School, at the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre and for seven years as an OCT with the Toronto District School Board. She is the 2017 recipient of Elementary Teachers of Toronto’s Arts Educator of the Year award.
 
Check out the article “September Support: Suggestions for emerging dance educators” in our September/October 2017 featuring dance educators from across the country, including Carpenter >> thedancecurrent.com/issue/volume-20-issue-5
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