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Students Explore Black History Through Words and Movement

When Full Circle Dance Company Artistic Director Donna Jacobs called for volunteers from an audience of 400 students at McDonogh School in Baltimore County, she was thrilled that so many young people thronged the stage. They had just watched Full Circle's dancers perform We Stand for Those Who Stood, a powerful tribute to the courage of protesters that includes parts of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s prophetic last speech.

Now, as part of a February 6 Black History Month workshop, the students were being asked to use their own bodies to express ideas related to equality, social justice, and courage. "There's a perception," Jacobs says, "that middle schoolers won't feel comfortable dancing and expressing themselves in front of their peers. But I find that they want to be a part of things, to have their voices and their perspectives heard and seen."

Jacobs divided the students, 5th through 8th graders, into groups of 10-15, each led by a professional dancer from Full Circle Dance Company. The audience provided words and ideas, and the groups onstage worked quickly to create movement phrases inspired by their peers' contributions. Jacobs then added music, and each group performed its own choreography.

There was a lot of energy and openness on that stage," said Liz Pelton, Full Circle's associate artistic director. "I loved seeing so many kids bravely making their own artistic choices."

Stasha Gibbs is McDonogh School's Middle School Equity and Inclusion Divisional Coordinator. She said, "The workshop was very engaging, and our students were eager to participate. The instructors worked with large groups of students to connect movement, emotion, and language for an enjoyable presentation. Our students learned the essential connections that can be made between the various forms of expression."

Full Circle Dance Company frequently conducts workshops with people of varying ages and abilities. "These workshops are great for the community," Jacobs notes, "but they are also great for us as artists. So many fresh ideas emerge when we explore movement together with new people."


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