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Laurel Shastri (M.S. in Geology) brings a unique perspective to dance. An experienced teaching artist, she specializes in integrating dance with diverse subjects such as science and language arts. She is part of Arts Council Santa Cruz County’s Artist Teacher Partnership, co-facilitates teaching artist workshops, and serves in Montalvo Arts Center’s Teaching Artist Program. She has presented workshops for educators at Monterey Bay Area Math Project’s STEAM conference, San Jose State University’s Marion Cilker Conference for the Arts in Education, Montalvo’s Arts in Your Classroom Conference, Tennessee Art Commission’s Creativity in Education, Arts 360 (Knox County, TN), National Association for State Arts Agencies, Value Plus, Southeast Center for Education in the Arts, and Arts Build. Her integrated lesson, ‘Greetings Through Movement’ is featured in the college text 'Creating Meaning Through Literature and the Arts,’ by Claudia Cornett. She served seventeen years at Ballet Tennessee, as Associate Director, company dancer, faculty, and grant writer. She was on the faculty of the model outreach programs Dance Alive and Talent Identification Program. She is a faculty member of Dancenter with certification in Progressing Ballet Technique and performs with MoveSpeakSpin, a contemporary dance company directed by Karl Schaffer. In 2015, she was resident dancer at the Djerassi Artist Residency Program’s Scientific Delirium Madness II. She is the recipient of Ballet Tennessee’s 2018 Dance Alive Legacy Award.
phone: (423) 598-6637
How does dance express ideas and promote learning? Laurel Shastri’s ongoing creative inquiry yields a number of dance-integrated units and lessons. Dance integration is a unique learning experience in which students learn skills and elements of dance along with core curriculum in organized and meaningful ways. Lessons are standards based, develop knowledge in multiple disciplines, and foster opportunities for student discovery and creativity. Through dance-integrated lessons, students:
• Practice skills and apply concepts in a safe, positive environment,
• Tap into their own creative process, and
• Deepen and demonstrate learning by embodying concepts in structured movement
activities and through collaborative conversations / reflection.
The Scientific Dancer:
In this series of units and lessons, students explore similarities between scientists & dancers and relationships between dance and science concepts.
• A Movement Experiment—Students explore scientific practices, experiment to solve movement problems and determine unknown dance vocabulary, and present their findings in a movement phrase.
• Force and Motion—Students examine the forces that act upon (their own) dancer’s body.
• Speed and Velocity—Why is it important for dancers to define both speed and direction (velocity)?
• SPACE Out!—Students explore ‘space’ as scientists and as dancers, learn how dancers orient themselves onstage with a coordinate grid, & use movement of the sun and shadows as inspiration to create dance.
• Energy—Students embody aspects of potential and kinetic energy and explore how dancers use energy in creating and expressing ideas through movement.
Technically, these units also fall under ‘The Scientific Dancer’ umbrella. But as a former geologist, Laurel is thrilled to connect two of her passions (Earth Science and Dance) in this series.
• Rock Cycle—Students observe and describe rock samples, translate their descriptions into movement, and learn about Earth processes that create the rock cycle.
• Volcanoes and Dance— Students act as scientists and dancers as they examine volcanic landforms and eruptive styles through the elements of dance. As their understanding of dance and volcanoes grows, students perform a short piece of choreography with intent and meaning.
• Weathering and Erosion—Students explore flow, movement, shape and other elements of dance in connection with processes of erosion to create movement phrases demonstrating these processes.
• Plate Tectonics—Improvisation brings plate tectonics concepts to the human scale. Students explore movement of plate boundaries resulting in mountains, valleys, earthquakes, erosion, and more.
Other STEM to STEAM Explorations
• Engineering a Dance—Students practice improvisational dance games as a form of brainstorming and use the engineering design process to create choreography based on an engineering theme.
• Exploring Body Systems— Students kinesthetically explore the skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, and circulatory systems and examine the importance of body knowledge in dance.
• Geometry and Dance—Students embody spatial concepts of geometry using dance.
These units explore Dance as a form of literacy / text / communication / expression.
• Dance Speaks—Students learn about African-American and minority dancers through literature and
media, explore different dance forms, and create movement to express an idea about themselves.
• Dance — Write!—Developed through Artist-Teacher Partnership with Cynthia Clancy, this unit connects creative movement to writing skills (letter formation, word formation, narrative, and story-telling).
• Greetings Through Movement Workshop—Explores literacy connections between reading, writing, & dance by creating movement greeting cards to express thoughts & feelings.
• Moving Morals—Using elements of dance, students create dance phrases that communicate the same meaning as the morals of selected fables.
• Poetic Dances—Students explore the relationships between the elements of poetry and dance. Topics include rhythm, structure, descriptive or figurative language, and self-expression through words and movement. Students create and perform dance phrases inspired by their own or others' poetry.
• Dance Upon A Time—Uses creative movement to introduce literacy concepts in children’s stories. Students embody different characters, express vocabulary, and perform parts of the story while developing knowledge of dance elements, spatial awareness and sequencing. Choose a story below, or suggest one to be developed in your class:
- ‘Little Cloud’ by Eric Carle,
- ‘From Head to Toe’ by Eric Carle
- ‘One’ by Kathryn Otoshi
- ‘Follow the Line Around the World’ by Laura Ljungkvist;
- ‘Ballet of the Elephants’ by Leda Schubert
- ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’
- ‘Princess and the Pea’
Socially Relevant Topics:
Participants explore social topics and the dancer as a communicator in society.
• Art (DANCE) as ACTivism—This unit empowers participants to communicate through dance and to
create and perform a meaningful message of change for their community.
• Breaking down Barriers—As a universal language, dance brings diverse groups together to address
topics such as bullying, disability, or English as a second language. (Also, see ‘Dance Speaks’ above.)
• Environmentally Dancing—Create and perform a story-ballet based on Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, or real-life environmental issues, as part of an awareness campaign.
• Learning Styles—Students explore brain development and different learning styles through the lens of learning dance.
Professional Development Workshops for teachers include:
• Let’s Dance the Curriculum: Sparking Students through Movement and Learning
• The Scientific Dancer: Investigating, Experimenting, and Embodying Science through Dance
• Meaningful Movements: Connecting Dance with Reading and Writing
• Giant Steps Toward Reading: Exploring Fairy Tales Through Movement
• Brain-body connections of dance and its impact on early childhood development
• Lesson Plan Demonstrations
• Other topics are available or may be developed upon request.
Meaningful Movement (Digital)
Hourly rate: $50 per class per hour + 4 hours residency planning + 1/2 hour per class hour lesson planning / customization / set up / strike. OR Independent Contract rate of $100 per class per session
The following Meaningful Movement residencies are available as Zoom classes. Sample unit plans used for in-person residencies are attached below. Adjustments will be made for specific class learning goals and virtual learning settings. Other creative dance topics may be developed on request. As part of the residency, teachers will receive detailed written curriculum and lesson plans.
Dance Speaks: Students learn about African-American and minority dancers through literature, explore different dance forms, and create movement to express ideas about themselves.
Dance Upon A Time: Students embody different characters, express vocabulary and perform parts of favorite children’s stories while developing spatial awareness, sequencing, and movement skills.
Different Ways of Learning…Dance: Students explore brain development and different learning styles through the lens of learning dance.