PS Dance! Dance Education in the Public Schools (First Run Features, NR)

dvd PS-DancePS Dance! is partly an observational film about school dance programs and partly an advocacy piece outlining the benefits of dance in schools.

 

 

 

With all the talk about arts programs being cut back in the public schools, I was surprised to learn that the New York City Public Schools employ almost 400 dance teachers. Granted, there are 1,800 public schools in the city, but it’s still good to know that dance is not entirely neglected in the system. PS Dance! Dance Education in the Public Schools is partly an observational film about the dance programs in five public schools, and partly an advocacy piece intended to drive home the benefits of having dance classes in the schools. The two halves fit together uneasily, and the film has the feel of a television program (particularly since it is only 53 minutes long), but it will still attract people interested in dance and, more generally, in education and the arts.

One point that is made again and again in PS Dance! is that dance class is not just for children planning to be professional dancers—any more than every kid who plays baseball expects to be in the major leagues some day, or everyone in a creative writing class will become a full-time poet. Instead, dance is presented as a way to become familiar with your body, to experience disciplined activity outside of a classroom setting, to learn to cooperate with your peers, and to channel your creativity into positive outlets. It’s also a way to teach students something about world culture, with the added advantage that dance is an art you feel in your body rather than something you look at on the wall.

The five teachers, and their programs, are varied, with students ranging from elementary to high school, and from those who are experiencing dance for the first time to those who have been studying for years and had to audition for their place in the school. Ana Nery Fragoso, originally from Spain, taught for 11 years at P.S. 315 in Brooklyn, and also developed a dance program for the East Village Community School in Manhattan. Ani Udovicki, who graduated from the Julliard School and danced professionally with companies including the Royal Flemish Ballet and Ballet Hispanico, teaches at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens. Catherine Gallant is an expert on Isadora Duncan and is the dance educator at P.S. 89 in Manhattan. Michael Anthony Kerr developed the dance program at the New Voices School of Academic and Creative Arts in Brooklyn. Patricia Dye is director of the Dance Department at the Science Skills High School for Science, Technology, and the Creative Arts in Brooklyn.

The footage of the students rehearsing and performing is fascinating—indeed, how could it not be, given the inherently visual nature of dance and the charm of the students featured on camera?—and the interviews with the various teachers and several other experts in the field are also informative and pertinent. Given that, it’s a bit jarring to see veteran newscaster Paula Zahn popping up regularly to deliver unnecessary framing narration directly to the camera.

There are no extras on the disc. | Sarah Boslaugh

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