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.
Reflections from our 2018 Residency
Bentley Cobb, musician
On my first day of the Minds In Motion 2018 Israel residency, the classes were extremely welcoming. But what I truly felt was a welcoming honor was the herd of last year’s students, who are now 5th- and 6th-graders, from the Jewish school Beit Yitzhak.
So, I’m here, minding my own business, walking on the school grounds, trying to remember where the main office is located so I can get the gym unlocked and then, BAM! I’m being pulled to the ground by the joyful 5th- and 6th-graders wanting to fist bump, high-five, and hug!
All of this was great, but here’s where I saw the difference between our American students versus the students here in Israel. After the brief HELLOS, the now 5th- and 6th-graders walked me over to the 4th-grade hang-out location and introduced me. They told the 4th-graders to treat me nicely, and with respect at all times. I was shocked that this happened without any teacher or authority figure pushing this on them. The 5th- and 6th-graders truly wanted to make this a great year for this year’s 4th-graders. This random, buoyant moment just showed how the school and community really appreciate our presence. These last 4 days of rehearsing have been nothing but hard work and fulfilling fun to these Arabic and Jewish students in Israel.
Zaher Alnasasra, teacher liaison at Al Salam/ translator for every class
My experience has been gaining an understanding from the kids perspective that they get it (the program). They had read the story before the program started and I was surprised how quickly they were able to connect the story to the movement on the very first day!
Katherine Smothers, teaching artist
There are many moments that pop up as special and significant when working with children. but there is something different and special about connecting with children whom you can’t speak comfortably with because of a language barrier. I consciously use more body language and eye contact to help communicate. What I noticed was a heightened alertness of eye contact from the students back at me. In an effort to really understand, they were giving me a huge amount of attention- more than if they could hear and understand my words. So with that first experience, comfort and trust seemed to come immediately. So many eyes and faces stand out but one boy in particular at Al Salam seemed to really give me so much love after the first class. I learned later he no longer lived with his mother and he usually acts out. But in Minds In Motion, she felt he was comfortable and happy and not thinking about his problems.
Guy Frati, Tel Aviv based musician
The way music supported teaching the movement was really impressive for me. It seems like the kids’ ears are very sensitive to what they hear from the piano or the drums and respond accordingly. When music changes or plays a different pattern, one can see the impact on the kids – they can easily get confused, or find a strong base – as long as the accompanist coordinates with the artist teacher.
I found it quite special the way Bentley guided me to be the soundtrack of the room, almost like a cartoon (in the good way!) – The music can or might represent different situations in class – supporting the movement combination, call and response method, act as an entertainer, make different sounds to create focus and much more. It was all very refreshing and fascinating.
Jordan Glunt, teaching artist
It’s amazing how quickly they start to understand English, or what you are trying to express to them. Maybe it’s the exaggerated expressions & gestures we use or our own unique personalities (also over the top 😉) to try to engage and motivate them. Even after just a couple of days they seem to just get it, even with translators there to help, they just simply understand faster and faster. And those that truly have you figured out start to interpret to their classmates (very enthusiastically and excitedly) even they don’t speak one single bit of English. Simply put- Kids are amazing. They can do anything, they are sponges; and with love, encouragement, and patience, they rise above the challenge and surprise even themselves.
Cat Studdard, Outreach Director
With rain pouring and roads flooding our dancers from Al Salam made their way to Beit Yitzhak for the culminating community performance. Quickly coming into the gym to get out of the downpour the students were excited and happy to see the new friends they made this week. The spectacular dancing and sense of community was evident to everyone in the audience. Many of the artists from Matter of Color made their way from Tel Aviv to celebrate the dancers that they are supporting and connecting with through Art For Understanding. I’ve enjoyed traveling to Israel to be a part of Minds In Motion for the past four years but this year was really special. We decided to change our rehearsal prior to the first performance as a mixed rehearsal with the two schools. The students also shared activities that day out side of rehearsal. Learning to write each other’s names and playing games that didn’t invoke language allowed them to connect more quickly. That was Tuesday so by Friday even the pouring rain couldn’t dampen their spirits. Led by Jordan Glunt with great teamwork from Katherine Smothers and apprentice Alex Zaslav the students connected to the fabulous music performed by Bentley Cobb and Guy Frati and they danced their hearts out. The audience was filled with joy!
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.
Generous support for Minds In Motion Israel provided by
United Jewish Federation of Tidewater
Annie and Art Sandler
Jewish Community Federation of Richmond
Robin and Matt Mancoll
Your support allows us to provide a great opportunity for the students. Please consider making an online donation to support Minds In Motion.