Arthur Hall began working in the schools in the late 1950s, developing a reputation for excellence with the Young Audiences program of Southeastern Pennsylvania. He was among the seven or eight original movement specialists for the National Endowment for the Arts at the very beginning of the national Artists in Schools Program in 1970. As a dance master and musicologist, Arthur teaches African culture and motor skill development, non-verbal communications, spacial awareness and community and school awareness through dance, song, movement, rhythms and exercises. He has extensive experience working with children K-12 and young adults in college level dance classes, with disabled people in movement therapy, and with adults from community groups to professional dance companies.
Arthur is usually accompanied by two musicians, and his residencies usually culminate in a public performance in keeping with the theme of African Festivals in American Schools (There is a wide range of alternatives within this theme). Depending on the school's environment, the entire school community can be involved in the dance and in projects related to the festival such as mask making, tie dyeing, cooking, and making costumes, sets, and musical instruments. Some school's have year-long themes culminating in an African Festival, fully integrating geography, social studies, history, anatomy, science, math, art, reading, and music.
Regardless of the level of involvement, the In-School Coordinator is the most important person to determine the effectiveness of a residency. The right person should be a good problem solver and should be able to improvise solutions under pressure. The In-School Coordinator should be dedicated to both the program and the school, should know the personality of the faculty and staff, and should be able to act as liaison between Mr. Hall and the larger school community. Too many cooks spoil the peanut stew. The In-School Coordinator is responsible for scheduling times and spaces, arranging room and board, transportation, and social activities, and insuring adequate privacy and periods of rest for Mr. Hall and his company.
The school's gym is usually the most appropriate space for the program (unless the school is blessed with an auditorium with a dance stage). The residency should be coordinated with the gym teachers and others to insure their involvement. If a gym or a dance stage is not available, a large, clean room can be used. All furniture should be kept out of the way or removed from the room entirely.
Students should wear loose, comfortable clothes such as sweats, shorts or leotards. They should know they will be dancing with bare feet. Every student should have a name tag large enough for Mr. Hall to read. This is very important for discipline. Teachers should remain with their class and participate. This is a learning experience for all.
Fabric is very important to many African cultures. The school can budget to purchase costume fabric, sometimes donations of fabric can be obtained from area mills or fabric stores, another business sponsor may undertake to provide fabric, or each student can be prepared to bring from home a clean, pressed, single bed sheet, various bandanas, scarves, and jewelry.
If the school has an inventive art teacher or a class teacher who is creative, much fun and involvement can come from making costumes and accessories in class. Painting or tie-dyeing cloth for costumes or set dressing ... dyed and strung macaroni for beads ... masks in several fashions are sure winners ... shields, swords, spears, ankle bells, drums ... all have the potential of being remarkable student productions.
For general descriptions of the costumes for specific dances, see "Costumes."
A separate dance by the teachers during the festival can be a special event for the entire community. (See Snake Dance Teacher Dance in which the superintendent danced the queen and the gym teacher danced the king, with the rest of the faculty in attendence.) Teacher workshops can also include volunteer parents, staff, and other members of the larger community (the mayor of Lewiston, Maine, has danced with Arthur Hall productions).
By their involvement teachers become comfortable with movement and learn in their own bodies the value of movement and dance as an educational tool. The more teachers participate, the more movement and dance will become a lasting part of the community's educational system. Teacher workshops are very beneficial. They reduce stress and help build faculty esprit.
There are often dancers and musicians in the community who would like to take classes. Participants pay at the door for Master Dance and Master Drum classes. Depending upon the circumstances, receipts are divided among Arthur's company and the school for providing the space.
Residencies are often intense and memorable experiences for everyone. As artistic director, Arthur is totally involved in each residency, an involvement which also requires adequate periods of rest and contemplation. The In-School Coordinator should insure Arthur's privacy when he is not "on the boards," and keep open communications with Arthur about scheduling extracurricular events and about other human needs (such as possible dietary preferences and prohibitions among his company).
Documentation is important. Printed programs should accurately reflect the performances and acknowledge those who made the residency possible. Students can be involved in designing the printed program with suggestions and resources available at dance graphics and notes.
Ile Ife and the Arthur Hall Collection is a nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting and promoting Arthur's work, and we would appreciate receiving copies of the printed program, photographs, newspaper articles, or videotapes to add to the Collection.
754 Mount Ephraim Road
Searsport, Maine 04974