Claudine Ranieri, Dance Educator at Paramus High School in New Jersey creates units of study for her dance students each year called Dance for Democracy & Social Consciousness. She has created dances where the dancers become the story tellers about our history as well as honor and pay homage to individuals who have made a significant difference in our society. These themes have included Mala Yousafazi and female oppression, Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King, Civil Rights and Racism.
Each of these dances included imagery as well as parts of speeches within the music to have a multisensory, multimedia experience. These units use 21st Century skills, where students through dance are collaborating, communicating, creating and applying critical thinking skills including making emotional and social connection the past and present.
This year I created a unit of study for my Dance Honors students focusing on the Holocaust. I utilized many resources to assist in my development of curricula; such as New Jersey Commission of Holocaust Education, resources both from the Holocaust Museums in New York and Washington , connecting to NJCCCS and 21st Century skills. Together with my students we created inspirational box with artifacts about the Holocaust, newspaper articles, quotes, pictures, objects and journals entries to aide as inspiration.
My own inspiration has came from the book “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” A Collection of Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp including Anne Frank’s Diary and researching the stories of survivors and Up standers like Sir Nicholas Winton who saved approximately 669 mostly Jewish children. I chose the poem “I Am a Jew “by Franta Bass that was transformed into a piece of music by Composer, Ruth Fazal’s, who was also inspired by the book of poetry and created Oratorio Terezin. As an educator and choreographer it is my mission to share the power of dance and through this piece of choreography “Identity”.
We wanted to honor the Holocaust as well as educate and serve as beckons of light for humanity just like the children of Terezin’s poetry and artwork that was found that shared their daily misery as well as their courage and optimism, their fears and hope. We recently previewed “Identity” at both middle schools. One of my dance students shared with tears in her eyes shared “Thank you Mrs. Ranieri, you truly honored the Holocaust, I can’t wait for my family to see it.”
Currently the Dance Honor students have selected individual topics that they wanted to use to created piece of choreography to raise social consciousness about. Again they created inspiration boxes for their topics that helped creation their own original pieces of choreography.
The students created dances about Bullying, Inequality, 9/11, Adversity, Depression and Body Image . They have evolved into three solos, one duette and two pieces that have evolved into small group works that the students selected they wanted to learn. We are looking forward to performing all of these dances at our annual Power of Dance Concert- Imagine, on June 1st for our school and community.
A special thank you Mr. Lawrence Glacer, Executive Director of State of New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, Barbara Kondratowicz History Teacher at PHS who shared her educational journey to the concentration camps in Poland as well as her own grandmothers’ story who is a living survivor of the Holocaust and Cristen Pennello, Dance Educator who shared a lesson using an excerpt from Twalya Tharp’s book, where Tharp’s explains how she uses inspiration boxes for each of pieces of choreography in which I will now always use Inspiration Boxes to aide in all choreography projects.
Paramus High School