On Valentine’s Day, the Lower School was visited by AXIS Dance Company, one of the country’s most innovative ensembles of performers with and without physical disabilities. Based in Oakland, the company spends a good portion of the year touring nationally and internationally, performing in concert halls, teaching its unique style of dance, and visiting schools.
Leading up to the event, dance teachers Ashlie Kirby and Juliana Monin introduced ideas about dance and disability to K-8 students. At the Lower School, students discussed ability and disability as well as what constitutes a “dancer” in small groups. Ms. Monin, who is a former dancer and rehearsal director for AXIS and maintains a relationship with the company as the Disability/Inclusivity Advocate for the California Dance Education Association, spoke with Middle School students about stereotypes of disabled people and how AXIS has helped to change these assumptions in addition to opening up ideas about what dance is and can look like.
The company of six dancers performed two assemblies, one for K-5 students and one for the Middle School students. Upper School dancers attended as well. The dancers showed excerpts of performance pieces, improvisations, and skits that helped describe how they work together.
Bentley students discovered that dance is not taught very differently from the way AXIS works. At Bentley, as at AXIS, Ms. Kirby and Ms. Monin emphasize accessible, creative movement that requires students to be active thinkers who make choices about how they express ideas and concepts. The student audience appreciated seeing the great opportunities for movement and expression that come from different bodies moving together.
Founded in 1920, Bentley School has fostered an environment that challenges the mind, striving to bring out the best in every one of its students. Bentley School is committed to academic excellence as well as the development of character and spirit in each of its students. (Read more in the Head of School's Message.)