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Creative movement taught at Fisher Hill

  • Fisher Hill School kindergartners dance around their frozen classmates during a motion class led by Turners Falls visiting artist Anna Hendricks, Tuesday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Fisher Hill School kindergartners dance around their frozen classmates during a motion class led by Turners Falls visiting artist Anna Hendricks, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Turners Falls visiting dance artist Anna Hendricks teaches Fisher Hill School students during a motion class at the Orange elementary school Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Students participate in a motion class at Fisher Hill School led by Turners Falls visiting dance artist Anna Hendricks, center, on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Fisher Hill School kindergartners dance around their frozen classmates during a motion class led by Turners Falls visiting artist Anna Hendricks, Tuesday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, January 30, 2018

ORANGE — Some kindergartners acted as human clay, molded into motionless poses by their Fisher Hill School classmates, who in turn skipped, ran, leaped, twisted, bent, and danced around them.

Then, at a word from visiting movement artist Anna Hendricks, the running students suddenly stopped, mimicking the posture of their frozen peers.

“Wow! Look at those twisted arms,” Hendricks, who lives in Turners Falls, exclaimed as she wandered through the dozen or so now-still children during a movement class at the Dexter Street elementary school on Tuesday. “Think about your fingers, arms, and legs.”

Hendricks, 35, a self-described and self-taught “creative movement” artist who has been teaching dance for 17 years, owns Great Falls Creative Movement Center at The Brick House Community Resource Center in downtown Turners Falls. She occasionally hosts workshops, after-school programs, and week-long residencies at schools throughout the region.

For the third year in a row, Hendricks will serve as host to daily classes for 80 kindergartners at Fisher Hill School through Monday. The class is funded by a $2,300 Massachusetts Cultural Council STARS Residency Program grant, awarded to schools for visiting residency programs in the arts, sciences, and humanities. The first two years, Fisher Hill School’s parent-teacher organization paid for Hendrick’s residency.

“It’s jumping and leaping. It’s very free movement,” said Principal Maureen Donelan, as the students participated in class next door. “You have to witness it. She uses keywords to direct their movement.”

While the class appears simple at first glance — like a group of kindergartners running around and dancing — there’s a lot of complex science and foundational dance concepts built into each lesson.

“The focus for every class is a concept. Yesterday, we worked on ‘space,’ and we used the word ‘level.’ Today’s word was ‘shape,’” Hendricks explained. In academic terms, the four foundations of dance are space, time (rhythm), shape (the body), and energy.

“Within each of those groupings there’s a lot to explore,” Hendricks said. Each day’s lesson incorporates other age-appropriate educational concepts such as counting or learning the alphabet, and builds on the previous one. There is no right or wrong way to complete instructions, and everything, Hendricks said, “emphasizes the creativity of each person, because there are so many different ways to interpret.”

Hendricks’s teaching is also influenced by dance therapy. For example, one activity called the “Brain Dance” follows developmental the stages of a baby, which Hendricks said has been proven in scientific studies to help children deprived of physical affection — an important step in childhood development. Students first focus on their breathing, then tactile feeling, appendage movement, and eye tracking, walking.

From an educational point of view, Joanne Woodcock, Fisher Hill School’s early childhood coordinator, noted that kindergartners are at a developmental stage when they’re discovering movement. And more than that, “everybody loves it. She’s a good teacher,” Woodcock said.

“At any age it’s important to go beyond academics. This is an opportunity to move, and learn through their movements,” Donelan said, noting, “this is adding to our social motion curriculum.”

To end Tuesday’s lesson, the kindergartners participated in a dance party to upbeat music. Come Monday, having completed Hendricks classes, the students will perform a performance for their parents that isn’t open to the public.

To learn more about times and classes at Great Falls Creative Movement, contact Hendricks by phone at 413-834-4644 or by email at studio.movement@gmail.com, or visit www.greatfallscreativemovement.com.