PYP1: Let’s Dance

In the past few weeks, our new Unit – How we express ourselves, has had the children of PYP1 swirling and twirling and actually dancing to a myriad of different tunes. It has also upheld our belief that engaging with our community allows us to celebrate our cultural diversity and it affords our students an opportunity to connect their learning to their everyday life experiences. Read on to find out how our amazing community, within and outside of school, “pitched” in to bring into our class the beauty and grace of dances spread across cultures and continents, time and space.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” ~ William Butler Yeats

Kindling the flame with Team Korea: In the PYP, collaboration is a skill and an attitude not only practiced by students and teachers but also employed by their parents. Proving this fact were the mothers of our Korean children from PYP1A and PYP1B who joined forces to lead the way as we set about on our quest to learn about the dances of the world. In what was unanimously considered by all the children as one of the most fun dance sessions, the four parents: Ms. Kyunghee Jang, Ms. Miyoung Hong, Ms. Geunyoung Koo and Ms. EunYoung Lee, looking resplendent in their beautiful traditional hanboks, introduced the children to the 5,000-year-old dance: the  ‘Ganggang sullae’. After a presentation detailing the history and other nuances of the dance, followed by a wonderful performance, the talented mums had all our children holding hands and dancing together in merry anticlockwise circles. The session also included a riveting, power-packed performance by Ms. Kyunghee on the ‘Jang-gu’, a traditional Korean instrument similar to a drum and yet so different, its two heads producing sounds of different pitch and timbre. The children were excited to have a go at this wondrous instrument and it wasn’t long before the beats of the drum mingled with the clapping of hands, the tapping of feet and the joyous laughter of children, to fill the classroom with what can be best described as the glorious sound of experiential learning!

A big ‘kamsahamnida’ to our lovely Korean parents for this fabulous experience.

Fanning the flames with Team India: Next we explored a series of Indian dances, dances that literally spanned the length and breadth of our country, with Kathak originating from the North, Bharatanatyam from the South and Garba & Dandiya from the West of India.

Kathak: Our Kathak session was led by kathakars Ms. Nila Miraj and Ms. Kanchan Palkar.The two ladies brought with them several years of experience and mastery fuelled by their passion for this dance form which was born in the eighteenth century, in Northern India. The children learned how this dance which derives its name from the Sanskrit word ‘katha’ which means story, brings alive stories through the compelling combination of footwork, hand gestures and expression. The skilled ladies highlighted features of Kathak, emphasizing on “mudra” to indicate a range of animals, emotions and facial expressions. They also presented the life sketch of Hindu God, Krishna, covering major events in His life through the dance form. The children, mesmerized by the hundred bells tied around her legs, were treated to inspiring performances by Ms. Kanchan and watched spellbound as the graces and the splendour fit for a king’s court were brought into our little classroom. The session ended with much applause and gleeful shouts of “once again” and a great big hug to a joyful grandma from her proud and beaming granddaughter.

Bharatanatyam: We next welcomed Ms. Sharmila Mazumdar, a Bharatanatyam teacher par excellence. With several years of experience in training school children, Ms. Sharmila quickly organized our children for the first part of their lesson. Since the dance incorporates a lot of eye-hand movements, their first task was to engage in some eye and neck exercises. After the warm-up, the children were then introduced to nuances of the dance such as hand gestures and movements to help them communicate ideas and thoughts. Our attentive class was a quick study as they meticulously followed their teacher and matched her every movement and gesture, whether it was emulating the waves of a river or the angry strike of lightning, the portrayal of a proud strutting of a peacock or the depiction of a gently swaying elephant. The session ended with Ms Sharmila and our students performing to a Bengali song about a class of children who, having implored their teacher to let them go out of their class, enjoy the beautiful monsoon weather; a thought that our children are no strangers to, a scene that repeats itself every once in a while at MBIS, come the rains.

Garba & Dandiya: After exploring the dances of the north and the south, our last Indian dance session took us a little closer to home with the Garba and the Dandiya which originated in our neighboring state: Gujarat. Ushering into our class, the zeal, enthusiasm and fervour of these Navratri dances, were our very own class representatives, Ms. Aarti Rampal and Ms. Radhika Vora who was accompanied by her sister-in-law, Ms. Vidhi Thakker, and her nephew from Mumbai. Supporting their mothers were Saanika and Ishan who courageously modelled traditional festive wear that most dancers don while partaking in these spirited dances. The children then viewed a presentation to learn about the nine-day festival of Navratri which celebrates the victory of good over evil. A live performance by our graceful experts was all it took to get our students ready and geared up to take on both the dances. Amid much swirlingand twirling and very careful tapping of the dandiya sticks, PYP1 was transformed into a whirlwind of movement, mayhem and magic!

A big ‘dhanyavaad’ to all the members of our Indian community for these wonderful, hands-on experiences!

Feeding the fire with Team Europe: From across continents, and like a breath of fresh air, holding the hands of our Czech and English mums, Ms. Barbora Sestak and Ms. Jitka Mazal and Ms. Lucy Plant, in waltzed the elegant and lively dances of Europe. During the informative presentation led by Ms. Lucy, we watched video clippings of Ballroom dances such as the graceful Viennese waltz and the Polka, the vibrant Spanish Flamenco and the rhythmic fast-paced Irish Step-Dance and viewed pictures of beautiful traditional folk costumes. We then watched how the vivacious Polka is performed professionally before getting our very first lesson in the Czech dance. The children were enormously captivated and watched their every move as our skilled teachers demonstrated and guided them through the fun-filled steps. And with each rotation, locking arms and spinning around with their partners, our students seemed to get more confident and competent and more enthralled and immersed in expressing themselves through this popular European dance. As an additional treat at the end of the session, the children got to see Ms. Barbora and Ms. Jitka give an endearing performance of another folk dance called ‘mazurka’, a centuries-old favorite among the young boys and girls of Poland.

A big ‘děkujiand ‘Thank you’  to all our European parents for sharing such an important part of their culture with us!

Keep it alive with Team Africa: When Ms. Julienne Nsai, one of our very first parents to volunteer her participation and expertise, walked into our class with her little daughter Zara in tow, the children of PYP1 let out a collective gasp. For before them, stood their pal Matteo’s mother and sister in matching flamboyant skirts bearing the designs and patterns of their family, their hair meticulously held up in a bunch of pretty ringlets, looking absolutely ravishing! Our children’s fascination with their clothes was evident by the sheer number of questions they asked about their apparel! Gently steering them towards the real purpose of her visit, Ms. Julienne introduced them to the Njang dance which originates from Kumbo, the second-largest city in the North West Province of Cameroon. As the music came on, she drew their attention to her feet which moved in perfect harmony with the beats of the njang, an instrument which reminded the children a lot of the Korean Jang-gu. The lively melody of the beautiful song ‘Ayo!’ soon compelled the children to join Ms. Julienne and soon all of PYP1 was swaying and moving and losing themselves to the happy and soothing rhythm of this African dance.

A big ‘Thank You’ to the Nsai family for the contagious enthusiasm with which they brought the Njang to our classroom!