'Movin' & Groovin' at the Eric Carle Museum'

A month-long collaboration involving 40 fifth graders, UMass and Five College dance majors and associate professor Billbob Brown will culminate Friday, Nov. 12 with performance and an exhibit of visual art at the Eric Carle Museum at 10:30 a.m.

The college-level dancers and Brown brought with them their enthusiasm, talent and skills, but also two books by Chris Raschka, “A Poke in the I” and “John Coltrane''s Giant Steps.” Raschka’s unusual approach to art served as an inspiration for students who have been developing their own choreographic and visual responses to Raschka’s work. “The students are exploring shape, line, form, music, dance and the visual arts,” said Brown. Crocker Farm teachers Janet Winston, Kacey Schmitt and Agnes Zsigmondi were involved in the process as well.

The project grew out of a visit by University Dancers to the Crocker Farm Elementary School in January. Each year University Dancers tours public schools in the Commonwealth bringing professional-level performances and workshops. With “Movin’ & Groovin’ at the Eric Carle Museum,” the teachers and students from Crocker Farm and UMass Amherst took a big leap in the development of their connections to each other and to the arts. “Movin’ & Groovin” also serves as the campus’s contribution to the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Five College Dance Department, which is taking place throughout the 2004-05 academic year. “This project,” said Peggy Schwartz, coordinator of dance at UMass Amherst, “is part of our department’s commitment to public schools and cultural institutions in the Valley, and to the expansion of the understanding of dance.”

According to Brown, “Those fifth graders were unwilling participants at our first meeting. All of the stereotypes associated with physical movement became a barrier. But by the end of that first session all of the students, male and female, were totally involved.”

The event is free and open to the public.