What makes the Dance Festival so spectacular is that every student in the school participates. Unlike other programs, there is no direct cost to families for this program; no instruments or costumes needed. Practice is during regular school hours with the teachers choreographing the dances. Some might say that this takes away from the real purpose of schools - instruction in reading, writing, math and the sciences. To them I give this quote by Albert Einstein: Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
I am currently reading Crossed by Ally Condie. It is the second book in a series depicting a future society where the needs of Citizens are met by the Society, but choice is strictly controlled. One way the Society maintains control is limiting the arts. There are the100 paintings, the 100 songs, the 100 poems, etc. These are all that are allowed to exist. Anything else is destroyed and those found to be in possession of an item not one of the 100 faces punishment. The books are excellent and I would highly recommend them.
The series cannot help but make me realize how empty my life would be without the variety provided by the arts and the variety of expression found there. I look back at this last week with my children - band concert, orchestra concert, choir performances, dance festival. All these things add to life and fill my spirit.
As I said previously, every student in the school participates. I was touched when I saw the 2nd graders dance and saw the aides helping three severely handicapped (not sure if that is the politically correct term) students with their performance. Those students had the biggest smiles. Even more poignant was the performance by the 4th graders when a student in wheel chair was guided through the routine by another student. I thought of my own nephew and how he is often ostracised by others. What a great lesson in acceptance these students received in a positive and fun atmosphere.
Performance Art develops the same sense of cooperation and teamwork that you find in athletics. While often no expense is spared in maintaining a football or basketball team, funding for the arts is usually near the first on the chopping block when money is tight. This approach to funding for our schools needs to change. More students can participate in the arts than ever will in sports. An appreciation for music, the ability to dance or sing or draw will far outlast the time spent on the playing field.
But most important, the arts allow an individual to use and expand a different part of the brain than the part used to memorize and regurgitate facts. It is this part of the brain that makes a man a genius and allows the progress of mankind. Steve Jobs did not have all the answers, but his ability to look at things and put them together in a different way is what made him a genius. Clifford V. Smith, President of the General Electric Foundation stated: GE hires a lot of engineers. We want young people who can do more than add up a string of numbers and write a coherent sentence. They must be able to solve problems, communicate ideas and be sensitive to the world around them. Participation in the arts is one of the best ways to develop these abilities.
So my plea to all is to do your best to support the arts programs in your schools and in your community. Volunteer to teach or aide a class in drawing or dance, play the piano or lead a school choir, attend the local drama department's production and your community theatre, become an advocate when needed and let those for whom you vote know the Arts are an integral part of education and society. And most important, remember you are never too old to learn, so take a class and expand your brain. And in the meantime, you can enjoy some of what I saw last night. Thank you to all who made it such a great evening.