Dance as Connectionby Jacqueline Bull May 28, 2018
This past May, Malashock Dance hosted their 2nd annual fundraising gala. The gala featured performances, a live auction and haute couture fashion designed after famous art pieces. The gala benefitted their outreach program, Math in Motion.
“It is such a unique approach to what we call arts integration. [The teaching artists/professional dancers] go into the schools during school hours. And we work with students kindergarten through 8th grade at four schools. They integrate what the students are learning in their math class with composition and choreography. So they may be studying geometry in their math class and when they come to dance class that week, they are able to create choreography using geometric angles as their inspiration, for example,” Molly Glynn Puryear, executive director of Malashock Dance, said.
The idea is that the students get to explore math concepts in a fun and active environment, and that it fosters the integration and application of what they learned.
“We find this cultivates a sense of empowerment, ownership. It allows students who are more kinesthetic learners or are very creative individuals who may be struggling in their math class, it gives them an opportunity to learn math in a really different way – through a different lens,” Molly said.
Molly started her career with Malashock as an outreach teacher and was trained by Nina Malashock herself. Molly then became really immersed in the company, (“I fell in love,”) and helped the founding of the school in Liberty Station. Her passion for the outreach programs and getting involved with education grew.
“I was like ‘Gosh, I think we could do more. I think we could really expand this,’” she said.
She then started meeting with school districts to assess what Malashock could bring to the schools. They were also really interested in the idea of arts integration. They started the pilot program for Math In Motion, later expanded and developed for more grade levels and now seven years later, it is a codified program. Throughout this time, she became the education director and eventually the executive director, (“It’s been quite a cool journey for me.”)
“The sign of a good program to me is when you are developing it and you say to yourself ‘Oh I wish I would have had this.’ [laughs]. I immediately got that sense. And then when I was able to teach the program, to go in and observe, do our documentation, it just became so crystal clear to me that this is really what the arts do. In a broad stroke, the arts connects us in all different areas of life, and learning, and humanity, and each other – just this baseline of connectedness,” she said.
“So it was almost like these two points that were so far away on the spectrum, ‘gosh, math and dance, what do the two of those things have to do with each other?’ And the more we dug in and explored, the more people I brought around the table to talk about curriculum, the more I realized that this is so easy to tie together because we do use math when we count, when we do formations, when we compose and choreograph. We’re talking about variables, we’re talking about space – the exact same vocabulary and concepts. So it just became this huge illumination for me that ‘Wow dance is a connector.’ And it can connect to anything, but we happened to choose math, but it illuminated this greater purpose that the arts serve.”