Luna Teaching Artists End of Year Reflections, Summer 2020    
Dear Luna friends and supporters,

The academic year and spring are behind us, along with a new season and an incredible shift in our collective society. In the last few months, questions about belonging, community, race, equity, and the artist's role continue to permeate. Issues such as these are daily inquiries for Luna faculty. As dance teaching artists, we encourage critical thinking and free expression in our students. We also reflect on authentic and culturally appropriate ways to support our community members. Our work, forever emerging, requires trust, strength, and the willingness to adapt to change. This spring, teaching artists dug deep into their creative selves to launch alternative ways to collaborate and connect with students in response to COVID-19. In June, when faced with the challenge to create a team response in support of Black Live Matters, reflections around equity, anti-racism, and our unique voices arose. In preparing this communication, the faculty agreed that the best message would reflect each of us. 

In this newsletter, we share stories from practice and examples of social justice, and the hope and perseverance that motivates us. Despite the uncertainty facing many arts organizations in this time, Luna is using the summer months to strengthen our commitment to bringing creativity, community, and equity to every child's life through the art of dance. We wish you safety, well-being, and opportunities to dance separately yet together from a distance.
In This Issue Luna Faculty Shares Stories & Messages for the Community
A Video by  Samia Karimi

Click on the picture above to view Samia's video that shares how her life journey connects to teaching creative dance to children.

Watch Me "Walk It Talk It"
- Cherie Hill

After 8 years with Luna Dance Institute, I am transitioning to a new journey. I exit with a heart full of joy, gratitude, unforgettable experiences, and so many stories of dance and community. This one is a favorite moment from my teaching in the MPACT family dance program this year. I will miss everyone, and I send you all love.  

I am at Project Pride residential center with co-teacher, Aiano. George is five years old, and the only other child present besides him is an infant.  He is hesitant about dance, hiding under the table. George displays frustration having to listen to his mom. As the class progresses, he gradually opens up, dancing around others. We ask the participants what songs they want to hear, and he shares his favorites. As the session progresses, George sometimes dances by his mom, getting closer. 

In their last dance class, George asks us to play, " Walk it Talk it " by the Migos for his "boys only" dance solo (we play the clean version). Mom sees George grooving and says, "Can I dance with you?" George replies, "Yes!". Excitedly she stands up, shrugging her shoulders up and down, circling him. Sometimes she copies as they move together and apart, maintaining eye contact. From the outskirts, their duet appears to happen in their special world. My co-teacher and the rest of the moms watch in awe, as we support their moment. 

Now, whenever I hear, "Walk it Talk it," I always think of this family, their last duet, and how I felt while watching them. Like they were on top of the world. 

I joined the Luna community almost 12 years ago as a Summer Institute participant. Now, as Luna's Professional Learning Manager, I continue my inquiry and growth by teaching and coaching during the Summer Institute, which is exciting because I get to follow the journeys of my coachees as they do inspiring things as artist-educators. This year several of my coachees started dance programs from scratch at the schools where they teach. One of them remarked: "making this dance program happen reminds me that I can make change; it's given me back my humanity." As COVID shifted live teaching to online, this teacher's students continued to dance with her as she creatively discovered ways to play with movement via the screen. How incredible for these children to have dance as a throughline, and that they were able to embody, to express, to move with freedom and laughter at a time when so much of our movement was restricted and contained. How incredible that this teacher was able to advocate for dance and creative movement as essential learning - essential to the human experience.

- Jochelle Pereña
About Luna
Luna Dance Institute (LDI) is the most comprehensive dance education organization on the west coast. We serve children, families, dance artists, educators, schools, and organizations through a variety of programs aimed at increasing access to dance for all. LDI's programs include Professional Learning, providing education and support to all who teach dance; Studio Laboratory, the Bay Area's only choreography-based program for children and teens; School and Community Alliances (SCA), supporting schools in our community to build standards-based dance programs; Moving Parents and Children Together (MPACT), providing parent-child dance classes to families in the child welfare system. 

To learn more about Luna Dance Institute visit 
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Luna Dance Institute
605 Addison Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
"The best way to fight evil is to make energetic progress in the good."  - I  Ching

As Luna's founder and Director of Teaching & Learning, I resisted building dance programs in schools until relatively recently (2003) compared with our other programs. I saw public schools as institutions of oppression--perpetuating the status quo and turning beautiful children into winners and losers. It wasn't clear to me how the transformative power of dance could exist within the educational system where each student is influenced by a teacher who is affected by nested norms perpetuated by a principal, superintendent, departments of education, and the U.S. Education secretary who sits nestled within corporate profiteering. 

The school-to-prison pipeline was evident even in those early days of Luna's pilot programs. In public schools, black and brown bodies as young as five years old were not free. 

When considering dance in schools, it was necessary to acknowledge repression and find authentic and honorable ways to work within the system. Of course, children should experience dance from their cultural background, and they should see professional dancers that look like them. Yet, as choreographers, Luna artists teach children to compose their own dances. What might that look like in schools? Creative dance offers children the opportunity to express their realities, feelings, and understandings of the world on their own terms. It also allows students to experience strong power in their bodies as they kick, jump, slash, and to experience gentle power in their bodies as they float, glide, twirl--all while connecting with their peers. Creating such opportunities for children and teaching others how to create them is what I know how to do. 

COVID-19 interrupted Luna's school programs and illuminated the gross inequities of our society. It remains to be seen how schools will come back from COVID-19. Will nested systems of oppression pull schools back to replicating the status quo, or will we collectively seize the opportunity to shift? Real change depends on opening our minds to the many possibilities for anti-racism work and find our own authentic and unique way to make energetic progress. 

- Patricia Reedy

"The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible." -  Toni Cade Bambara

In this time of transformation on the micro, meso, and macro scale, I continue to interrogate the role of the dance artist in the context of social justice. Why make dances when people are dying at the hands of a racist, sexist, classist, and ableist system? Is dance a vital part of this new world order? Right now, my answer is still "yes." Initially, the words of James Baldwin and Toni Cade Bambara come to mind. Baldwin writes, "The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don't see." While Bambara states, "The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible." I feel both are true and that there is another component, specific to dance which is the aspect of embodiment. We cannot solely think our way out of oppressive systems - we must embody the conditions in which we are all able to thrive. Similar to making a dance, building an alternative to the world that currently exists takes courage, creativity, and the willingness to risk it all. 

- Aiano Nakagawa
"Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future." - Paolo Freire 

Two pivotal experiences shape my life's work. In 1980, I spent a week in an immersion experience with other student leaders from high schools throughout Los Angeles. We made art; engaged in long and difficult discussions about race, equity and social justice; and lived in emotional spaces that caused us to question our upbringing and the status quo. In my early 20s, I taught kindergarten in the public school system. I left that system, dis-heartened by the rote learning and cookie-cutter bulletin boards displaying art where students colored within the lines. Later, I came to realize that to be "schooled" within this public institution prepared children to become factory workers. And, for black and brown children, the school-to-prison pipeline was their trajectory, thanks to "schooling".

As a teacher, I believe education in the United States has the potential to be the great equalizer toward freedom and democracy. I had an inkling when I became a director at Luna that if ALL children could freely express themselves through their bodies, talk about their artistic work, and make dances that told their stories, they could transcend their situations and experience liberation. I have seen liberation in the classes I teach for children and families . . . I have seen this with the teachers I coach . . . I have seen this with the dance-makers sharing their work in the studio.

As I reflect on my multiple roles I've held at Luna for the past 28 years, I see how my teen leadership experience and early foray as a classroom teacher left an indelible imprint on my life's work as a dance educator and arts leader. Four decades after high school, as a global pandemic has brought inequities that have always been bubbling, rising to the surface; I am inspired to see momentum build to create a more fair and just society.

Looking toward the future, I am proud of the work Luna has accomplished, while at the same time I am ready to explore how we can have a greater impact on all of our communities. As a leader at Luna, the challenge I pose for myself now is to explore with compassion, an open heart and mind, curiosity and imagination, and trust that the world is ready to move with us.

- Nancy Ng

  The other day I was sifting through the countless teaching moments throughout the year that have impacted me as a teacher, choreographer, dancer, and human. I feel incredibly grateful that I have been in a position to do this work. What I love about this job is that I have the immense honor of witnessing children dancing- finding freedom in their bodies, agency through expression, and connecting with others with empathy and compassion. 
I would like to share a story of one student who inspires me to this day to live in my fullest truth and expression. I think it was the second month of school when this student waited behind while the other second grade classmates went in for dance class. I could tell they wanted to share something very important with me. I bent down to listen and they whispered in my ear "from now on you can call me Young Miami". "You got it, Young Miami. Thank you for sharing that with me" I replied. 
Young Miami is an exceptional dancer and artist. They have a natural ability to perform and shine, stretch and jump, twist, play, and create. Whenever they walk into dance class they come alive with a smile on their face and hands on their hips as if to say "let's do this." They will often tuck & tie their shirt into a knot on the bottom side and take out lip gloss from their pocket to apply before our brain dance warm-up. Early on, this was often met with confusion from the other students. They would make comments like "you know you are a boy, right? Boys don't do that. You aren't a girl." I followed up those comments with a conversation around body and choice. I asked a few students how they feel most comfortable moving- what do they feel comfortable moving in? Young Miami was one of those students and took the opportunity to share that they "like to tie their shirt up and get ready because it is their time to do the thing". The comments from the other students filtered out of the dance space after that. 
I share all of this because the work that Luna does, the work of a creative dance teaching artist, is to create a space of trust and belonging so that every student feels safe, seen, and valued in an environment where their creative self-expression can be cultivated through dance. The student is centered. Students and teachers learn from each other through the most beautiful, constructivist lens. I learned so much from Young Miami, I am still learning so much from Young Miami, months after the last class we had together. Their fearlessness in expression and choice has taught me to embrace being bold. Their commitment to artistic movement choices encourages me to keep finding my own voice of movement and to stay curious around what feels good in my body. 
Perhaps the most important lesson that I learned from Young Miami is to be an advocate for yourself and what you need. They knew that they had to dance and express themself and would make that known. There was one time when dance class was canceled and I was about to pack up and go when Young Miami showed up at the door. They made it clear to me that they needed to dance and that I should play "Lip gloss" by Lil Mama immediately. I did just that and we danced together- borrowing and experimenting with movements from each other- for the whole song. 

- Heather Stockton