QuestionsContact Guinn Baker
Dance unites communities.
Through our innovative Minds In Motion Israel program,
we work together to use the power of dance to break down barriers.
Our program began with Jewish students at Beit Yitzhak Elementary School in 2010.
By 2012, it had evolved into a collaborative experience with Arab-Israeli students at Al-Salam in the village of Qalansuwa.
In 2015, for the first time ever, our classes from Beit Yitzhak and Al-Salam performed together in a culminating performance in front of an audience of 1,500.
They danced together. As one.
Our two-week, immersive Minds In Motion (MIM) residencies in Israel begin with two teaching artists and two musicians, who collectively bring the MIM experience to both Jewish-Israeli students at Beit Yitzhak Elementary School in Emek Hefer and Arab-Israeli students at Al-Salam in the village of Qalansuwa.
Minds In Motion staff work with more than 300 students daily for two weeks.
No matter the cultural setting, Minds In Motion offers its students a positive experience with dance and performance. By helping all students discover important life and learning skills, the program:
- Encourages the development of expressive participation skills concentrating on creativity, self-confidence, focus, and dedication;
- Fosters improvement of interpersonal skills building on values of cooperation, mutual respect, and self-awareness;
- Nurtures an understanding and appreciation of working towards the achievement of a challenging physical and mental goal;
- Believes that dance tells its story through a language of music and movement, and it historically has served as a tremendous platform of cultural exchange and education;
- Promotes relationships between children of all backgrounds, which is particularly impactful in the Middle East;
- Guides MIM students to unite beyond stereotypes, which is a meaningful message for Jewish and Arab participants;
- Informs a more compassionate community with cooperative experiences as students practice towards a unified performance goal and moving in unison; and
- Breaks down social boundaries and lays groundwork for collaborative dialogues.
Reflections from our 2017 trip to Israel:
Emily Dandridge–Teaching Artist
My biggest take away from my time in Israel was–kids are kids are kids are kids.
Let me explain. I feel confident in my Minds In Motion teaching abilities. There is always more to learn and new ways to grow, of course, but I feel comfortable and secure in knowing that I can teach children dance successfully in a fun way. Heading to Israel I found myself getting incredibly nervous and doubting my teaching skills because of the language barrier the children and I would have. How could I make a joke with them? How could I explain the movement quality that I wanted for a particular step? How would I simply break the ice and get to know them? These insecurities kept on growing and growing, to the point that when I was asked, “How can you teach them if you don’t speak Hebrew or Arabic?” I’d start to panic.
I will never forget my first teaching day in Israel. Our first class was at Beit Yitzhak School, the Jewish school, Cat and Katherine took lead and I was along for the ride with the students. My nerves were still going strong and I just tried to take in every single Hebrew word I heard and tried to memorize it and start using it as quickly as I could. Right after that class Katherine and I went to Al Salam, the Arabic school. In the car, I realized that at the Arabic school, they’d speak Arabic, so my Hebrew was no longer applicable. Great. Welcome back nerves. We waited outside the gym for the students to arrive, my heart pounding. Finally, we could see them coming down the street and I realized I was smiling – the closer they got to us, the calmer I felt, until suddenly – they were there! Right in front of us, with huge smiles on their faces, climbing over each other with their hands stretched out to be the first one to give us a handshake or a high five. We all laughed and shook hands and then instantly started moving. It was like a dream – If I moved, they followed instinctively. If I clapped a rhythm, they clapped it back. And then we put our arms out to the side, lifted our heels, and we flew. We flew! Collectively we flew away from all inhibition, all insecurities, all nervousness, and we entered our dance space and we danced and laughed and learned. As the days continued we got closer and closer, and even started to make up our own language that we all understood.
I forgot that kids are kids – no matter where in the world you are. Be goofy, make them laugh, feature their excellence, make them feel important, valid, and needed, accept their mistakes but help them learn from those mistakes. Despite our “differences” we are all the same – through movement we can learn and grow, and most importantly – we can fly.
Katherine Smothers–Teaching Artist
I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve personally had to travel with our amazing other artists to share the magic of Minds In Motion. Israel is a very special place and the response and hospitality we receive is overwhelming. The neat part for me about teaching students in a different country whose language I don’t know, is that the power of dance to initiate relationships becomes evermore strong and evident. Other senses become heightened and I feel connections made quicker.
Two of my favorite stories from this trip: the second week, a boy in a wheel chair with a muscular disability joined a class at Al Salam. Instantly, he was warm and smiling and participating to the best of his ability. The teamwork and pride his class showed him brought tears to my ears. During the show, he navigated his electric chair while brimming with confidence. My other story happened when I finished teaching at the end of the day in Qualansawa, the Arab village, and was desperately in need of caffeine. I drove to a nearby coffee shop and one of the workers recognized me from four years ago when he was a student. He broke out on the spot in the finale steps from his show four years earlier!! I was so thrilled to see in action the power of a positive experience, the power of muscle memory through dance, the power of human connection, and the power of the arts.
Generous support for Minds In Motion Israel provided by
Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation
Mr. And Mrs. Michael A. Gillette
The Jerusalem Connection
Jewish Community Federation of Richmond
Mr. Chuck Lessin
Mr. Abby W. Moore
Annie and Art Sandler
United Jewish Federation of Tidewater
Your support allows us to provide a great opportunity for the students. Please consider making an online donation to support Minds In Motion.