Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company
Chinese Culture in NJ Schools
A Model Arts-In-Education Program
Goals of the Chinese Culture in Schools Program
Addressing School Needs
This program addresses the following needs:
Over the past ten years the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company has offered programs for educational institutions throughout New Jersey that meet the affective and curricular needs of classrooms and children. Many of our programs have promoted a better understanding of Asian American cultural heritage with a broad impact in the arts and dance. As early as 1992, we began seeking ways to make a deeper impact on children and teachers, recognizing that to realize the company’s mission we would need to build an alternative model for working with schools. Through the Westminster Academy project in Elizabeth, the company has been able to effect in-depth changes in the school through globally oriented, multidisciplinary perspective on education utilizing our creative process.
In 1995, when Nai-Ni was commissioned by the Lincoln Center Institute to develop Peach Flower Landscape, teaching artists worked with her to create a study guide. Classroom teachers who viewed the dance created curricula exploring concepts such as the way Taoism and Confucian thought are expressed through movement and how such values can be integrated into classroom life. Enthralled by the interweaving of many elements of Chinese culture into a colorful production, teachers submitted an unprecedented number of requests for Peach Flower Landscape to be performed in the Lincoln Center Institute’s affiliated schools.
Encouraged by the possibilities of teacher, student and community participation in art and learning, we began to search for a New Jersey School district where we could pursue, in partnership, an interdisciplinary curriculum that could evolve organically from the company’s work.
In 1997, the Elizabeth School District was identified with the opening of a new neighborhood school. During 1998, the company provided Westminster Academy in Elizabeth several professional development seminars, a large resource box of Asian materials and curriculum materials developed in partnership with the teachers. During 1999, the company provided: several field trips to museums with Asian Art galleries and our performance at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, several teacher workshops, several in-school performances and over 70 class room workshops in dance, art and music which culminated in a day long event called China Day! Similarly this past year the company provided workshops in movement and art, which culminated in a Lantern Festival on March 24, 2000.
Using curriculum developed in Elizabeth, during 1999, the company provided over 40 classroom workshops to students in grades 5 and 6 of the George Washington School in Hillside. The spring and fall sessions of workshops culminated in two public performances with both the students and company performing for fellow students, parents and the general public.
The Elizabeth model was also applied this past fall in Paterson in partnership with the New Jersey Community Development Corporation’s Family Friendly Center in School #2. The program was kicked off with a free performance of The Art of Chinese Dance, which was followed by 8 movement workshops for students in the 2nd and 3rd grades. The program ended in a Festival in December with the student’s performance with the Dance Company, Chinese craft demonstrations and Chinese food.
Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company seeks to continue developing the model in Elizabeth and apply that model to other needy school districts such as Hillside, Verona, Maplewood and Paterson. There are several phases to the Elizabeth model:
Implementation Phase. A series of classroom visits featuring the company’s dancers and guest artists designed to enhance the curricula. These activities culminate in a Family Festival in which children and their parents participate in the celebration of a Chinese Festival. These festivals include: Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival and the Harvest Moon Festival as well as celebrating Asian American Heritage month in May.
In Elizabeth, we have found that this model works. We plan to continue providing classroom workshops, which culminate into a All School Family Festival. Dance Company staff attends faculty staff meetings to work with the teachers to further develop the curriculum.
In both, Hillside and Paterson the programs were well received and there is interest in continuing our workshops and festival performances. Introductory workshops have been provided in Maple wood and Verona with interest in expanding the program.
Over the past few years, the company has created a model program that brings together community resources in New Jersey to achieve district and school wide involvement in the arts, greater pride in a diverse student population as well as foster teaching excellence and creativity.
Support from Lillian P. Schenck Fund will allow the company to expand this program. The company has already established an excellent reputation in these areas. With this support, the company can then afford to hire additional artists and administrative personnel to bring the dance and culture into schools that otherwise cannot afford such programs and services