Lawrence receives grant for dance education

Dylan Reed-Maxfield

Lawrence University has received a grant from the Dana Foundation to begin a new dance initiative involving both the Lawrence community and the local schools. The goals of this new program are to raise awareness of world dance on campus and to help the Appleton public schools in their efforts to expand arts education.
The grant will be used to send five students as ArtsBridge Scholars to teach world dance to fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade schoolchildren in Appleton. Their efforts will culminate in a World Dance Day, which will be hosted by the university during spring term.
The five scholars will be chosen from among 12 Melee dancers currently taking a world dance class taught by President Jill Beck. President Beck’s students will spend Fall Term learning a set of world dances and studying their cultural histories and meanings.
During the winter, the ArtsBridge scholars will carry their knowledge from President Beck’s classroom to the classrooms of the Appleton schools when they begin teaching the dances.
Meanwhile, President Beck and two student interns, Clare Bohrer and Beka Vite, will work to coordinate World Dance Day, which will likely take place in early May. Like previous ArtsBridge days, this event will involve a large number of children coming to campus to learn and perform.
According to Vite, as many as 200 children may show up to perform on World Dance Day. “We’re hoping that this turns into a pilot program and that it can be repeated in subsequent years,” she added.
President Beck founded the ArtsBridge America program while she served as dean of the School of Arts at the University of California-Irvine during the late 1990s. Using partnerships between schools and universities, ArtsBridge now works to promote K-12 arts education in 16 states.
Cynthia Roberts, who serves both as chief of staff to President Beck and as interim director of Lawrence’s local ArtsBridge office, explained that part of the motivation behind the dance program was to assist schools that are struggling to maintain arts education “in an economy where arts funding is drying up.”
Roberts also said that the university will monitor assessment results from the schools where the ArtsBridge Scholars work, hoping to find additional support for an already suspected correlation between arts education and more effective learning in K-12 schools.
The Dana Foundation is based in New York and was founded by state legislator Charles A. Dana in 1950. Besides supporting arts education programs, the foundation makes grants for research and publication in the health and brain sciences.