PROGRAM #2. (Grades 6-12)
Mathematical Calculations In Preparing a Salsa Performance
In preparing to do a dance performance, calculations must be made to prepare the music so that it has the right number of beats for a specific choreography, and so the sound ends at the end of a musical phrase. (This makes the presentation "feel finished.") These calculations can be made by the students so they see how math plays into performance preparation.
When a dance company gets music prepared, the song must end at the end of a musical phrase. A Salsa phrase is often four or eight sets of "8 beats." This computation offers a perfect opportunity to use base 4 or base 8, instead of our base 10 system. One would want the final number of beats in a piece of music to be divisible by 4 (or 8), which could be represented as a zero in the "one's place" if the counting were done in base 4 (or 8).
And even without using the complicated idea of other base systems, just the calculations done in our ordinary base 10 to get music cut and prepared for a show, offers a nice opportunity to show how math computations enter into the arts. In this lesson, students can be introduced to a few moves, count the beats in each, and then figure out how they would choreograph a presentation using those moves. Then they have to relate that to the music and make the corresponding computations as they apply to music. So they have to decide where in the music they wish the piece to end so that it sounds complete. Then they decide what moves fit that number of beats. Most Latin songs last 4-5 minutes, which is usually too long for a performance piece. Hence these calculations have to be made as music must be cut. If by chance an entire song is used, then the calculations of which moves fit the music still must be made.
The program described here can be offered in a single session, just explaining and showing the moves and doing the math. That would be suitable for grades 5 to 12. Or a group may wish to prepare for a performance of some kind (for an "International Night" or Hispanic Heritage Celebration, etc.). In that case, the program can run for four or more lessons, and students will actually learn the moves and do the math needed to prepare music for their performance. This approach is recommended for students in high school or college, and it results in students who can present a short Latin dance performance.
A full lesson plan with objectives, goals, procedures, evaluation methods, relevant hand-outs, etc. will be prepared depending on exactly what the lesson covers. And a six minute documentary film on Cuban Salsa (Rueda) that I produced is also available to show the students. It's an inspiring short film that underscores the universality of interest in this dance, all across the globe! To watch a trailer for this film, Click here.
PROGRAM # 3. (Grades 5 to 12: Social Studies)
Hispanic Culture and Its Contribution To the World
A lesson on Latin dancing makes a very natural accompaniment to a social studies unit. The dance lesson could cover three or four of the most popular Latin dances (e.g. Bachata, Merengue, Salsa and Cha Cha). The history, underlying rhythm, and cultural relevance of each dance could be discussed. These dances originated mostly in Latin countries of the American hemisphere, so this would be perfect for a unit on Latin America, an "International program/festival," or for a school program celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. However it suits a unit on world history as well, because the world-wide popularity of Latin music underscores the global nature of today's world.
I can provide a "hand-out" on the underlying rhythms of the major Latin dances to accompany the lesson. Hand outs on Latin culture, dance histories, and a verbal description of basic dance steps are available as well. All of these would make a nice additions to the program.
If the school/class is interested, I also produced a 6 minute documentary film on how Cuban Salsa has become popular world-wide which could be shown. The film includes Salsa performance groups representing all the (inhabited) continents on the globe! It even features an adorable group of young Cuban children dancing. To watch a trailer for this film, Click here. In addition to illustrating Latin culture, the film links Latin America to the rest of the world, illustrating how their music and dancing have been "exported" so that people all over the world now enjoy it. Again, this reflects the global nature of today's world which an important lesson in modern social studies.
PROGRAM # 4. (Grades 6 to college level)
A Team Building Exercise Using Dance
Team building exercises force people to work together and enhance the message that everyone adds value to a group, and that each person contributes and has inherent worth. Hence, a team building activity in which all members of a group (such as a class or school) must work together is useful for students or adults who do projects that involve cooperative work.
I run team building exercises by teaching Cuban Salsa, a group form of Salsa dancing. In this dance, after every move, the leaders move to a new partner. If any leader does not move to a new partner, then he is holding onto someone who should become another leader's partner. So the dance circle doesn't flow as it should, and the whole circle is affected. Since it is more fun for everyone when the circle flows properly, there is a natural incentive for people to help each other. As a result, people tend to work together cooperatively for their mutual benefit.
This, then, is a way to draw an entire group into a web of interdependence which fosters mutual helpfulness. This program has been successfully used by students in schools and by adults in organizations or workplaces. In fact, it has been run at school faculty meetings, as well as with students.
PROGRAM #5 (Grades 4 to college level)
Women Take The Lead
This program begins with a brief talk about the history of women's roles from antiquity to the present and how they have changed. The talk can include some discussion of how dance roles reflect societal norms, and the tradition-breaking work done by Barbara Bernstein's dance company. This conveys a message of women's empowerment and can be done during Women's History Month (March), or any other time of year.
Latin dances performances are usually included, with a woman both leading and following. In some cases, two ladies switch roles so that someone who starts out leading ends up following and vice versa. The program can be done with a man and a woman who switch roles. In that case, sometimes the woman is leading and the man following, and sometimes they're in the traditional roles.
Traditionally in partnership dancing, men lead the dance, deciding what moves to do. Women simply acquiesce and follow whatever is led. This means that the men do the "thinking and creative work." In professional level dancing, steps can be quite complex and require a lot of practice and memory. But all those challenges have traditionally belonged only to the men. However in this lively presentation, ladies step up to the plate and show they can lead complex material very capably, too!
The phenomenon of women leading partnership dances reflects their changing role in society. In the spirit of "art imitates life," this program shows ladies embracing all the roles that are played by Latin dancers. This fun and inspiring dance presentation is based on the principle of women's innate equality and capability.
The program is constructed so girls are given the opportunity to learn the leader's steps if they wish. The program is guaranteed to be both empowering and fun!