Alvin Ailey lead Offers Master Class at Mark Morris, April 15

If you are not a dancer, grab anybody you love who is one, and make them go to this class. If you are a dancer well, you probably know what this opportunity means!

I am not a dancer, I'm a teacher who is very interested in the arts, though totally untrained as a dancer. We happened to have Jeroboam Bozeman, lead dancer for Alvin Ailey, come to our second grade classroom last fall. He is a graduate of another school located in our school-building, and he was gracious enough to join our little journalists for an interview. 

Just being interviewed, he is a show-stopper. He is full of light, and energy and positivity, and sincerity. So much of the latter that he makes you question that you ever questioned the kind of positivity of a motivational speaker. 

More relevant to this post, he's an expert. Period. And how often is expertise accompanied by such an open and warm-hearted spirit? Not often enough, likely. That's why I'm stressing how important this opportunity is.

So, dancers 15-years and older, find your way to Mark Morris April 15 for a class by Mr. Bozeman and his Ailey-colleague Chalvar Monteiro. Register by emailing cgymonteiro@gmail.com

Here is how Jeroboam described the class to me:

The workshop is broken into two sections. The 1st section is a contemporary Horton based class. That explores modern movement with an infusion of African. It's target towards preprofessional and professionals. The ages range from 15 and up. The 2nd portion of the workshop entails an exploration of movement through improvisation, and phrase work. It focuses on cultivating ownership ofvocabulary provided. The entire class served as an exercise in auditioning and performing. 

Native Plants of New York

At the school where I currently teach, my second graders study how Native Americans utilized the natural resources of Brooklyn to meet their needs and maintain thriving communities 400 years ago. We study historical maps and make our own large scale model of what this natural environment looked like. We read historical fiction like the out of print "Little Fox" , we visit the Eastern Woodlands Indians dioramas at the Natural History Museum, and we explore the Mannahatta resources at the Museum of the City of New York. 

Our school also has a focus on sustainability and all things green, and so, I thought, we should have a garden of native plants at our school. So our children can learn to weave and whittle and carve with the same natural materials that young Lenape did centuries ago. 

On a Saturday in January, I walked through the frozen native plants circuit at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, with thoughts of gathering seeds to get our garden started. No such luck, not a lot of signs of life in mid-January in the eyes of this amateur botanist. However, on my way out, I stopped to ask a security guard what he knew about the education department there. I was doubtful that anybody would be there on a Saturday, but this guy was so, so helpful, and he found me exactly the person that I needed to talk to!

It turns out that the NYC Parks Department runs a native plants nursery on Staten Island called the Greenbelt Native Plant Center  that gives OG greenery gratis to schools and other community organizations. With the help of Jeremy La Pointe, the Nursery Manager, I identified eight species of shrubs, grasses, sedges and ferns to start with. He actually ended up bringing them to my door on his way home from work one day, but I still hope to visit the nursery myself. In fact, he invited me to come out and volunteer during my summer break and further my learning about native plants.  

 

Stories BK

It's been months since a friend, the mother of one my students, exclaimed, "You have to check out the bookstore and storytelling lab that my friends are opening in the old comic book store space on Bergen!" 

"Storytelling-wha?," I said; glad to see the concept of storytelling as a craft that is approachable and teachable gaining traction in the general public that is Park Slope. (One of my favorite teaching adventures has been the similarly concepted story camp that I've taught with my good friend and self-described "story-style photographer" kamau ware.)

Well, it took me far too long to visit Stories BK, but I'm so, so glad that I finally did. There's an excellent collection. And once you stay a while, dig deeper, and browse longer, its small size belies its depth. Especially as you take time to browse the literary nonfiction - is it just me or is this just now becoming a genre for children? Am I right to call it literary nonfiction - biography crossed with short story and poetry, diagrams and exquisite art appointing explanations of topics big and small. I loved a book about artist Louise Bourgeois. Read more than one great book about Muhammad Ali. And couldn't get enough of "You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?!", the inner-nine-year-old baseball nerd in me wishing I had this great book way back when, and the veteran teacher in me chagrined that I didn't recognize the name of its author, Jonah Winter, though I'm happy to have a great new book store in the neighborhood, devoted to children and exploration and stories.

Executive Order 9066

Executive orders making the United States of America less free and less safe ... been there, done that. The story of Japanese Internment is little known, and especially here on the East Coast, mostly absent from our schools.

Having grown up near San Francisco, where trips to a nearby shopping center were a weekly reminder of Japanese Internment, I was interested in this history from a young age. You might think this is too heavy for your young child, but what is heavier is the emotional weight of discovering the challenges our democracy has faced only later in high school or even college.

I read books by Yoshiko Uchida as a 4th grader and more recently have been reading "Impounded", a book of photographs by Dorothea Lange. Timely reading as you and your family try to make sense of Trump's travel ban.

Simple, Elemental Kid-doable art

See elegant art at MoMA and Museum of the American Indian that kids and adults will both love

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) currently has beautiful works by the Haida painter Robert Davidson.  I've never seen anything like it.  There are two exhibits that drew me to MoMA recently.  I review both in pictures and words below.

I hope you'll go to one or both of these and share your photos with me.  Maybe a great kid quote too!

 Haida (Pacific Northwest Native American) painter  Robert Davidson  blends traditions profoundly, resulting in a pulse through his art that looks backward and surges forward.  He writes that he wants to make paintings of just one line that a viewer would recognize as Haida.  Mixed in with the tradition, there's a nod to Abstract Expressionism that made me wonder why we don't see more Native American painters like him in MoMA.  I think his work deserves to be displayed there.  Just a thought.

Haida (Pacific Northwest Native American) painter Robert Davidson blends traditions profoundly, resulting in a pulse through his art that looks backward and surges forward.  He writes that he wants to make paintings of just one line that a viewer would recognize as Haida.  Mixed in with the tradition, there's a nod to Abstract Expressionism that made me wonder why we don't see more Native American painters like him in MoMA.  I think his work deserves to be displayed there.  Just a thought.

In an exhibit at MoMA called Designing Modern Women: 1890-1990 you will find furniture, posters, and toys that will inspire the outsized fancy of your miniature companion(s).  Kids will love the toy houses and the pre-mid-century-modern kitchenette design.  Some of the work deals with feminist struggles and inspiration, but some of the work is very playful - perhaps there's hardly a need to distinguish the two.   If you go with kids you'll want to be careful with and a few of the post-punk pieces that refer to genitalia, but most of the exhibit will is totally kid-friendly and will probably make them want to go home and build things that they could see in a museum.

Brazilian artist Lygia Clark paints elemental shapes, colors and lines that, while non-representational, are appealing, even soothing.  She also makes "toys" like the one pictured in the header at the top of this page.  Museum-goers are invited to play with many of them.  You'll feel good messing around with them, and then you'll read about how she re-imagined her art as tools for therapy!