When the Artistic Director at a dance performance called students from the audience up onto the stage, I resisted the urge to check my cell phone for messages. Audience participation doesn't make riveting entertainment, in my opinion, and I was ready to tune it out and wait until the real performance began again.

But, I managed to pay attention to the audience participation on stage. If I had put my attention on my cell phone, I would've missed a moment of inspiration for me.

I was at the dance performance with my kids - and with a few hundred inner-city school kids on a field trip. We were in a community college auditorium to see dancers from the Alvin Ailey II American Dance Theater.

When the kids from the audience were assembled on stage, the Artistic Director explained that all dancers begin their workday with a warm-up. He called two choreographers on stage to show the kids a simple warm up.

It was pretty easy: stretch head back, reach right arm this way, reach left arm that way, reeeeach an arm up, drop body down to reach the ground, reach up high to the sky, open palms, spread arms.

The kids repeated the sequence three times, and the director said, "If you were in my dance studio, I would show you that routine once and expect you to know it. I would expect you to listen and pay attention the first time it was told to you. Now, show me on your own what you learned without the choreographers leading you." And the kids did the short routine on their own, and the audience cheered.

I thought to myself, "Sounds like Charlotte Mason to me....listen once and narrate." I love when Charlotte pops up in unexpected places. But, it's what happened next that wow'd me.

The Artistic Director told the audience that they would now see the professional dancers perform part of Alvin Ailey's signature piece, Revelations. He didn't say anything more than that. When the dancers began to move slowly to the slow music, the audience of hundreds of school kids gasped. They were riveted.

They gasped because they recognized what the dancers were doing. The "warm-up" movements that the kids just learned were the same movements that opened the dance number. The children knew the movements, they liked them, and they wanted to see them performed by the dancers. The energy from the stage rippled through the aisles, no doubt about it.

If the Artistic Director hadn't taught the "warm-ups," I doubt the audience would've watched the dance. I think many kids would've jostled each other, talked, txt msg'd, slept - I've seen that happen before. The movements and music would have been too slow to hold the kids' attention, and many simply would not have cared to watch. But because they knew something, they cared.

As a homeschooling mom, I don't consider myself a teacher. But when I see a great teacher in action, like the Artistic Director on the stage, I am inspired. By teaching the children the dance, the Artistic Director taught the children to notice, to connect, to be excited, to care. When I hear homeschooling parents say that their children only bother learning things they care about, I question myself what comes first - the learning or the caring. I wonder what wonders we miss when we rely solely on the whims of our self-interest.

If you're curious about what the children learned at the Alvin Ailey II performance, please watch the first 60 seconds of this video. The movements would make a great morning stretch routine to do when rising out of bed. Do you think you could remember the 60-second sequence after one viewing? Try it!

I ask you to watch the dance - at least the first minute of it - thinking of an entire auditorium of children transfixed, surprised, excited. If you watch past the first minute, you'll recognize the movements again during the dance.

Photos: Murals from around the city.


  1. Wow, I had missed you friend. Nice new layout!
    I love your connections and findings, you are always so observant and eloquent.

  2. So, could this take the place of Swedish Drill? (jk!)
    I enjoy reading about your brushes with Charlotte in the city - your experiences are so very different from ours, yet equally rich.

    From joy to joy,

  3. Silvia - nice to see you! I'm always happy to see your name in the comments section. :)
    Nancy - your comment about Swedish Drill truly made me laugh out loud! You're absolutely right, and now I can't watch the dance without thinking it's Swedish Drill.

  4. Oh, I definitely think the caring comes first. It's one of the (few) things I learned in my teacher training that really is useful for me as a homeschooler. If I can form those connections for my kids and get them "hooked" first, the learning is so much deeper! And how neat that the Artistic Director "got" that and used it.