‘Dance Me a Story’ teaches children creative movement

Preschoolers explored literature through ballet through the “Dance Me a Story” event by Ballet Quad Cities Thursday.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Shiva

Children are taught ballet at the Iowa City Public Library on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. Kids in attendance were read excerpts from "The Nutcracker" and taught ballet steps. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Ribbons danced around the room as preschoolers twirled in brightly colored tutus and danced interpretatively to The Nutcracker in an event Thursday.

Ballet Quad Cities brought its “Dance Me a Story” program to the Iowa City Public Library for the third time. The program, founded by Ballet Quad Cities CEO Joedy Cook, explores literature through ballet by reading stories that correlate with the performance season of Ballet Quad Cities in community centers across the state. The children then explore creative dance movements inspired by the story.

“Along with our professional performances, we really try to establish a great outreach as far as education in the arts and other areas,” Ballet Mistress of Ballet Quad Cities and the presenter of “Dance Me a Story” Margaret King said. “This is a great opportunity to help with literacy and getting kids to pick up a book and be interested in using their imaginations to bring a story to life and make it their own.”

During and after the reading of The Nutcracker, the children were encouraged by King to embody elements of the story and music in their movements. Kids pretended to have a sword fight like the mouse king in the book and shimmered their hands like snow to “The Waltz of the Snowflakes.”

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“Think of your arms like gauzy, flowy silks,” King said to the kids during “Arabian Dance.”

The children immediately became immersed in the music and their own imaginative movements.

“It’s not just about me coming in and saying these are our steps,” King said. “It’s more about letting the audience use their imagination and their physical self to express what the story is saying.

Emily Muller, a parent from California residing here for the semester, said her girls loved the “Dance Me a Story” event and had a great time. She said all of the Public Library events have been very well thought-out.

“They love the Nutcracker, and they love dancing, and they love books. So it’s like the best of all worlds,” Muller said. “I wish they had more things like this.”

The kids also got the chance to look at and try on various costumes and props from the professional ballet performance. They took turns “breaking” the Nutcracker doll and trying on the mouse king mask.

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“There’s so much movement. I feel like the kids really enjoy it,” coordinator for the event at the library Mari Redington said. “Some of these girls came last year, and they’ve been talking about it. Every time they see me, they’re like, ‘When are the ballerinas going to come back?’ ”

Ballet Quad Cities and Orchestra Iowa will performing their rendition of The Nutcracker this weekend at the Paramount in Cedar Rapids. They will perform the following weekend in the Quad Cities.

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