Elementary Students get Unique Dance Lesson in West Des Moines

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa - Students at Hillside Elementary School had the opportunity Tuesday to learn from a traveling dance troupe performing at the Des Moines Civic Center this weekend - but their teachers say this lesson applies to other subjects, like social studies, too.

Hillside Elementary practices something called "Artful Learning" with its curriculum; teachers say that means all subjects - like math, science, and social studies - include an artistic component to facilitate the students' learning experience. In this case, fifth-graders at Hillside Elementary will utilize some of the dance moves and techniques taught by the Los Angeles-based performing group, Diavolo, in a demonstration on the history of the Underground Railroad.

"I like to say we're one of the best-kept secrets," said Hillside Elementary art teacher, Pamela Ballard. "What we've noticed with how [art integration] impacts our student learning, is it develops student leadership skills. We think of the 21st Century skills we want to develop in our students - they learn how to respect one another, they collaborate with one another."

Diavolo performers say they aren't just a dance group; the troupe re-branded themselves as "Architecture in Motion" after deciding they were more than a dance or theatrical act. One performer with the group says they travel the country offering educational sessions just like the one at Hillside Elementary they taught Tuesday.

"When we come out and do educational work, it focuses so much more on the trust, teamwork, and communication aspect of what we do, because that's actually the foundation of the work," said Chisa Yamaguchi of Diavolo.

Diavolo will perform for Hillside Elementary students at the Des Moines Civic Center Thursday and Friday morning, with a public performance set for Saturday.

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