Moving Minds Dance, a small but growing dance program in Central Seattle, is aiming to change the way children learn new ideas– by dancing about them. The program, started by Ciara McCormack Greenwalt in 2014, now offers curriculum-integrated dance classes. Just like other recreational dance classes in studios and after-school programs, young dancers will learn dance technique and combinations to prepare for showcases, but this program purposefully integrates every dance activity with its real-world applications. This format fosters students’ curiosity about their world and encourages them think creatively about what they’re learning.
“My teaching philosophy is that we can learn all things through dance,” said director Ciara McCormack Greenwalt, “I’ve been teaching curriculum-integrated classes in public school settings for years, but it’s very rare that recreational programs take advantage of the value that lies in pairing dance with other subjects.” There has long been discussion about the value of getting students moving, and how skills learned in dance classes have real-world applications in everything from making friends and getting hired to playing soccer or understanding math. Often, combining dance with an academic subject is the only way to convince schools to offer this vibrant art form. “I would love to see students in schools given the opportunity to just dance, but I also feel like it’s a disservice to teach dance without connecting it to the rest of a dancer’s life and the other things that are filling their minds.”
This school year, Moving Minds Dance is focusing on three big themes, one for each season. Throughout the fall, classes worked on building inclusive communities with social-emotional intelligence. Through movement, students honed their social and emotional skills, learned to establish strong relationships and take care of themselves and each other. This winter, students will dance about physical science, and discover how the laws of physics and the human anatomy are at play in the dance studio. In the spring, young dancers will dive into the magic of storytelling and literacy, exploring language through movement and creating dances inspired by the students’ favorite books.
The teachers at Moving Minds Dance are highly trained and capable of providing technical instruction on par with other professional-track training programs in the city, but the goal isn’t to turn out professional dancers. Their website states, “Our primary focus is to develop dancers who are humans first- assured of their own strength, intelligence, poise, and kindness. That’s why our classes focus on so much more than dance. We bring the rest of the world into the classroom.”
In Central Seattle, Moving Minds classes are available for students ages 2-9 years at Garfield, Miller, and Montlake Community Centers. These are all taught by McCormack Greenwalt, who has been developing her creative movement and beginning ballet curriculum since she began teaching in 2008 and boasts an impressive resume. In addition to running Moving Minds Dance, she teaches for the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Community Education department, Spectrum Dance Theater, and Evergreen City Ballet, serves as Vice President for the Dance Educators Association of Washington, and performs professionally with Intrepidus Dance.
Moving Minds Dance is a small dance education project led by dancer and educator Ciara McCormack Greenwalt with a mission to create and nurture a world of dance that encourages creative thought and joyful curiosity. McCormack Greenwalt has been teaching in the Seattle area since 2013 and founded Moving Minds Dance in 2014. The company currently serves over 100 students each year. By expanding its programming to integrate other topics into the dance classroom, Moving Minds Dance is furthering its mission to pique students’ curiosity and encourage them to creatively engage with their world through dance and movement. Those interested in learning more about the program are may visit movingmindsdance.org or contact Ciara McCormack Greenwalt directly for more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.