By: Zakiya Atkinson
One of the most significant aspects of my high school dance curriculum has been the use of socially charged themes and events as stimuli for creative process and performance. My classes have explored occurrences of genocide, civil rights protests, immigration and hate crimes. While the topics may seem daunting for a dance class, social justice education should be an integral part of all disciplines and can be included in diverse and creative ways. My students are always eager to engage in this type of learning which guides them through cycles of inquiry, embodiment, creative process, discourse and reflection. Furthermore, they begin to recognize dance as a means of activism and seek opportunities to present their work. I have devised singular lessons, unit plans and multi-week creative labs, where students have documented the process, arranged music and designed costuming. In addition to the in-studio learning experience, lessons have incorporated guest speakers, trips to conferences, performance attendance and a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
How can you move your student artists towards change?
Zakiya Atkinson is the Artistic Director of Zaman Dance Theatre Collective and the Memorial High School Performing Arts Academy Dance Program. She has presented artistic works and developed programming for PK-12, community and private sector, along with facilitating arts instruction and outreach initiatives in South Africa and Uganda. A certified dance teacher, Atkinson holds an MA in Dance Education from New York University, BA in Communications & Theatre from Temple University and a certificate in Holocaust & Genocide Education. She has served as faculty in higher education and is the founder/ director of the Essex County MetroWest Dance Festival. Atkinson is a doctoral student and an Arnhold Fellowship recipient in the Dance Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University.