ABS Thursday Notes- February 25, 2016

Thursday Notes                           

Published for the Arts Based School Community                                                           February 25, 2016




How We Do It and Why

Mary Siebert


“It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer.” – Shannon LeFleur


When I need a lift, I watch one. Yesterday I got that elevation by watching 8th Grader Jackson Calhoun, as “Simba” in The Lion King, lift and spin his (double-cast) partners again and again. Dance rehearsals are visible to other students as they stride past on their way to the restroom, through the windowed garage doors of the dance/drama studio. The positive example set by 8th grade boy-girl couples, fully focused and rehearsing gracefully in respectful cooperation cannot be over-stated. Other 8th graders who were not in this particular scene stood outside watching at the end of class, and burst into applause, supporting one another.

The choreographer, visiting artist Thao Nguyen, is a graduate of UNCSA. He dances, sings, acts, and choreographs around the area and teaches dance at the Enrichment Center. When I offered Thao this contract I pointed out that, unlike a typical dance studio, our students are not all dancers who have paid for classes. They are public school kids of diverse backgrounds who, while they have performed together for years, do not all identify as dancers. He would need to choreograph according to the strengths of our individuals. He would not be choreographing a show, but choreographing children. Thao listened, then cheerfully and firmly replied that his positive energy would pull them all in. Truer words were never spoken.

Jan Adams, the K-4 dance teacher, observed students working with Thao last week and delightedly reported that ABS’ performing arts program prepared them well for success. These students are comfortable enough to work together with a new choreographer, risking error in front of their middle school peers. Years of movement, drama games, ballroom dancing, and acting together have given them confidence and fluency. Thao reports that he loves our students’ positive spirit. He says they are not afraid to try.

To make a grade-level-wide show possible, other staff must be dedicated, flexible, and enthusiastic. They flow with schedule changes designed to maintain an unchanged amount of time for academic classes while grouping appropriate characters together for rehearsal. Like parents who engineer possibilities for their children, ABS’ staff work together to make it possible for our students to work on a group project, stepping back to allow the children themselves to receive the accolades. Drama teacher/director Nick Zayas passionately lobbied for this musical and offered to do whatever was needed to make it happen. He is logging many hours of organization, planning and rehearsal time beyond his schedule, so there will be more to report from his perspective as the project progresses.

Meanwhile, back at dance class Thao is coaching: “Enjoy that moment! Doesn’t that look pretty? Yeah it does, trust me. You’re like blades of grass, yes? Do it one more time, because it’s so beautiful it wrenches my heart.” He cues the music and they do it again, every one of them intent.

When I ask the students about the experience of dancing with Thao so far, they all agree that they love it. Sierra Grace, an experienced dancer, says “He really knows what he wants. We all love him. He’s nice to us, he’s very respectful. He’s driven, but not too much. As we’re getting older we’re stretching…for some of us it’s what we needed. For others, it’s stretching the boundaries.” Arynna, also an accomplished dancer, says that it’s fun for her to watch other kids learning the art form she particularly loves. Our newest students, our “shy” students, all of them are stepping into this experience and taking on something new.

From all of the students, I hear that Thao has high expectations but also a sense of humor, he connects with them. Sophie says “I would not do 100 sit-ups for just anyone, but I’ll do them for him. You just want to please him.” Marley says “He brings out an entirely new side of people.” When I asked how she handles that moment where she leaps into her partner’s lift, Marley said “It’s scary, but I just do it. Who cares, don’t think about it. You just gotta trust.”

Middle school children learning to strive harder, support one another, prepare with rigor, take chances, reach goals, leap and trust. I love watching that lift.



Tech Tips for Parents

As our students get older, many of them use cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices. Here are some helpful tips for parents to consider regarding technology and children:


  1. Make sure you know what devices your child can access and what those devices can do. Many apps allow students to text, send messages, and send photos or videos without a cell phone or a cell phone plan. Kik, ooVoo, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are some and there are many others.


  1. Set the rules. Clearly establish when and where your child may use their device. Consider whether or not he or she should have the device in their bedroom, on at night, during study time, etc.


  1. Know the ABS device policy : Cell phones and personal electronic devices are not to be used by students during the school day. Students must store unapproved electronic devices in a pocket or schoolbag for the entirety of the school day. Failure to do so will result in the device being held by a staff member until dismissal. E-readers (such as a Kindle or Nook) represent an exception to this rule, when used to read books already downloaded at home. Parents and students should recognize that loss of or damage to these devices is possible and the devices are the responsibility of the student. The Arts Based School is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen, phones or devices. Failure to adhere to this policy will result in a disciplinary referral to the appropriate administrator.


  1. “Follow” your child online and monitor what they post, send, and receive. Check their accounts often and consider parental controls that help monitor children’s devices.


  1. Discuss internet safety with your child. Make sure they understand how quickly information, photos, and videos can be shared with many people outside of their immediate contacts and explain that once these messages are put out there, they can exist permanently on others’ devices.


Community Creates!

If you would like to help with ABS fundraising event or know of an artist that would like to paint an 8 x 10 canvas, please contact Claire O’Boyle at coboyle@artsbasedschool.com.  Save the date- Saturday, May 7 for the auction!


All Money Due for Read to Feed

Please turn in all monies collected for the Read to Feed Project. Checks can be made out to Heifer International, and turned into your teachers or turned into the front desk. Thank you for helping families around the world find sustainable ways to enrich their lives.


Skate Night Tuesday March 1

The K-Kids and Builders Clubs are sponsoring a winter skate night on Tuesday, March 1 from 6:30 until 8:00 p.m. at Skate Haven, 120 Hood Drive in Winston-Salem. The fee is $5.00 to enter the rink and rent skates.If we get more than 100 skaters, the clubs will receive $1.50 back from each ticket to support various charities. So let’s rock and roll!


Annual Giving Campaign

It’s Week THREE of our Annual Giving Campaign!





Many thanks to all those families that have contributed to our campaign!  Our goal is to reach 100% participation this year and we can’t do it without YOU!  Whether you give $1 or $1,000 – all participation counts equally!


Your participation goes FAR beyond achieving a number on a piece of paper.  Having a high participation rate from our families shows our community that we support our school and believe in its mission.  High participation speaks volumes when we apply for grants or call on local businesses to support us.


There are many ways to contribute:  send in an envelope with your child, mail one in, drop by either front office OR simply click on this link to donate online quickly and easily!



Snow Day Make Up

April 5 is now the snow make up day.  Please plan to have your children attend school on April 5.