by Rachel Hellwig
“Dance is only taught in a fraction of schools nationally. But here in New York City, a growing number of schools are offering dance as a distinct course of study,” says Paula Zahn, host of PS DANCE!, a new film that explores and celebrates dance education in New York City public schools.
At P.S. 89 Liberty School in Manhattan, dance teacher Catherine Gallant guides her elementary students through an exercise set to Saint-Saens’ music “Aquarium”. They improvise aquatic life forms in swimming, swishing, watery gestures as she calls out ideas to inspire them. Gallant says that “all children have a large appetite for movement”. She also employs dance to help students remember history. When her class studies Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, they use motion to imitate the experiences of escaping slaves–running through fields, crossing bridges, and hiding behind trees.