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Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

1570912830780Photo: Chris McKeen/Stuff
The woman above, who participates in a New Zealand prison’s ballet class, says the dancing made her happy. She says she plans to take some of her new skills into her future on the outside.

In New Zealand, officials in a women’s prison have found that ballet may not only provide structure and discipline to people who need help with self-control: it may also provide happiness.

Caroline Williams writes at Stuff, “Barbed wire fences, concrete cells and a focus on hard punishment are a thing of the past at the Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility. Instead, it’s open spaces and restorative rehabilitation in the form of classical music and contemporary ballet.

“Since 2017, inmates at men’s and women’s prisons in Wellington and Christchurch have enjoyed a more refined approach to restorative justice, thanks to a Royal New Zealand Ballet [RNZB] initiative to make the art form more accessible.

“Before prison, some of the women had had to ‘be staunch’ their whole lives, RNZB corporate development manager Diane Field said. The ballet program had allowed them to feel free and feminine.

“[In October], the first group of women to take the course in Auckland graduated in front of an audience of RNZB representatives and prison staff, with choreography including repertoire from past RNZB productions Megalopolis, Cacti, Artemis Rising and Black Swan, White Swan.

“The seven women beamed with pride as they completed the performances with few mistakes — a pretty good effort for only 10 and a half hours of practice spread over eight weeks, with a week lost in the middle due to a measles scare. …

“One said the certificate given to her at a graduation ceremony made her feel like she’d accomplished something. … Another said the classes had shaped her into ‘a totally different person’ after never having engaged in sport or dance before her conviction.

“While the dancing ‘made her happy,’ she accepted it was part of her punishment and would take something from the experience into her future. She hoped to pursue a career in fitness upon her release from the facility. … ‘Little things from outsiders make a big difference for us.’

“All the inmates interviewed by Stuff said they would like to take dance classes again and would encourage other inmates to have a go.

“RNZB senior dance educator Pagan Dorgan taught prison programmes in Wellington and Christchurch, but said the women in Auckland had a particular flair for movement.

‘Every week you can just see them become more confident. With confidence comes the drive to want to get better. They’re very engaged and very present.’

“Dorgan, who usually taught dance in schools, … adjusted her teaching style to accommodate for the inmates, including allowances for chatter and freedom for the women to work in their own groups. But she insisted she hadn’t made it easy for the women.

” ‘The more you see them develop, the more you can push.’

“Prison director Steve Park said … [it’s a credit] to the women to put their name forward for the programme.”

I had thought of “restorative justice” as an effort on the part of a wrongdoer to “restore” what they had taken from someone else in committing a crime. But of course, it’s also about restoring criminals to their better selves. Good to know that ballet can help.

More at Stuff, here.

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Photo: Thomas Peipert/AP
Leaders of this Colorado Boy Scout troop say the group helps refugee kids adjust to American culture while providing a safe place where they can be themselves.

It may be surprising, given the news that grabs our attention these days, but stories about ordinary people showing kindness to refugees are everywhere. I can hardly keep up. Consider this KidsPost about a Colorado Boy Scout troop published in the Washington Post January 2, 2017.

“Boy Scouts Jean Tuyishime and Moise Tuyikunde sit around a campfire under a canopy of stars in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, joking and teasing each other as teenage brothers often do. Only 2½ years ago, they were a world away, living at a crowded camp in the central African nation of Rwanda (pronounced ru-WAHN-duh).

“The brothers were born in the Gihembe refugee camp after their parents fled violence in 1996 in what was then known as Zaire (zah-EER). They relocated with their family to the Denver area in 2014, and they gradually became a part of their new surroundings, learning to speak enough English to get by and signing up for a typical American experience — Boy Scouts.

“But the troop Jean, 15, and Moise, 12, joined is not like many others in the United States. Troop 1532 is composed almost entirely of refugees who hail from faraway places such as Burma, Rwanda and Nepal.

“At campouts, such traditional American food as hot dogs and trail burgers is replaced by fish head stew, fire-roasted corn and chatpate, a popular street snack in the Asian country of Nepal. Dessert, however, still includes s’mores. …

“Troop 1532, formed in 2014, could be a model for other Boy Scout groups looking to welcome young refugees. [Justin] Wilson and P.J. Parmar, a doctor who started the troop, say the kids’ backgrounds present challenges that other troops don’t face. Members come and go, which makes it hard to focus on earning merit badges and advancing in rank. …

“Many of the parents have little money and work long, odd hours, which makes it hard to plan meetings. Parmar said the scouts often can’t get to meetings, so he decided to gather only for camping trips. …

“Jean’s father, Jean Batacoka, a 37-year-old housekeeper with five children, says the efforts of Wilson and Parmar have helped his kids.

“ ‘What they do down there is not just leadership, because they learn discipline, how to behave, how to respect people who are older than them,’ he said through a translator. ‘I think it’s a really good thing for them, and I can see something is happening.’ ”

I have nothing but admiration for the men who organized this. Any scout troop requires a big commitment from adult leaders, as some readers of this blog know. The time and energy Troop 1532 leaders give to the unique challenges of refugee Scouts is especially remarkable.

More at the Washington Post, here.

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Photo: Sean Scheidt
Boys in Baltimore are being given an unexpected opportunity and are giving back to the school that makes it possible.

Something unusual is happening in Baltimore. Boys offered free ballet are loving it.

Gabriella Souza reports at Baltimore Magazine, “The audience seated in folding chairs stares curiously at the dancers in front of them. Perhaps, the performers aren’t what these families and elderly couples think of when they hear the word ‘ballet.’ After all, there are no tutus or pink-ribboned shoes in sight. Instead, seven boys of varying heights, ages, and races stand before them on the carpeting, barefooted and wearing khakis and bold-colored T-shirts. …

“ ‘What are we in for?’ the audience seems to be wondering this day in April. When the boys begin to move, it all makes sense. Their motions are controlled, graceful, and musical, and their bodies appear weightless as they fly through the air or lift high up onto their toes. Their artistry combines strength, vivacity, and masculinity. …

“The dancers are part of the Estelle Dennis/Peabody Dance Training Program for Boys, which gives young men ages 9 to 18 tuition-free admission to Peabody Dance, the after-school dance training program that is part of the community school affiliated with the lauded Peabody Institute. …

“In 2009, as a way to attract boys to the program, advisers and instructors decided a scholarship program could encourage families who couldn’t afford training, or who otherwise might be hesitant. The small proportion of boys to girls in ballet has been noted nationally, and though statistics on the subject are hard to find, for years teachers have reported that they often only have a single boy in their classes, if any.

“ ‘There has always been this underlying thought from fathers — and mothers, too — that they didn’t raise their boys to be ballet dancers. It still exists to some degree, but much less,’ says Barbara Weisberger, who is Peabody Dance’s artistic adviser. ‘This program is helping to remove that stigma, because these boys are wonderful talents. They’re a joy to watch.’ …

“Barbara Weisberger still remembers the first auditions she oversaw for the Estelle Dennis program in May 2009. Walking into The Mount Royal School and Roland Park Elementary/Middle School that day, she drew her breath in amazement as she saw dozens of boys, 60 total, who were black and white and of all ages, waiting to show her what they could do.

“Though most of them were hip-hop dancers, it didn’t matter to Weisberger — their enthusiasm was contagious — and it didn’t seem to matter to the boys that she was showing them a completely different style of dance. They were just excited to move. ‘They enjoyed themselves so much. They were so musical, they were such fun.’ …

“ ‘There’s a different, masculine culture that they’ve brought,’ says [Melissa Stafford, Peabody Dance director and department chair], who became director and department chair in 2013. … ‘When you step out for a five-minute rehearsal break, you’ll come back to the boys doing three pirouettes and trying to outdo each other in a friendly, competitive way. That camaraderie they have with the other guys has changed the energy of the school.’ More here.

No question that ballet is demanding and athletic enough to satisfy many boys. Case in point: this football player’s comment, “Ballet is harder than anything else I do”!

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There’s nothing like concentrating on something completely “other” to calm one down. Here, at the tension-filled demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, soldiers take a break to concentrate on ballet.

Kim Hong-Ji reports at Reuters the Wider Picture,”The 15 male ballet students groaned as they strained to do the splits and laughed with relief after their teacher counted to five and let them relax.

“Once a week, a group of South Korean soldiers near the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean peninsula trade army boots for ballet shoes in a class intended to ease the stress of guarding the world’s most heavily fortified border.

” ‘There’s a lot of tension here since we live in the unit on the front line, which makes me feel insecure at times,’ said Kim Joo-hyeok, a 23-year-old sergeant doing his nearly two years of military service that is mandatory for South Korean men.

” ‘But through ballet, I am able to stay calm and find balance as well as build friendships with my fellow soldiers,’ said Kim, who is learning ballet for a second year and plans to continue when he is discharged from the army. …

” ‘Being in the army itself can be difficult, so I wasn’t sure what kind of help I can be here,’ said Lee Hyang-jo, a ballerina at the Korean National Ballet who visits the base once a week to train the soldiers.

” ‘But as the soldiers learn ballet little by little, they laugh more and have a great time and seeing that makes me think that coming here is worthwhile,’ she said.”

I suspect it is fun for her, too, in the same way that teaching English lit to a class of engineers was fun for one professor I heard about. The fresh perspectives of those who come from an entirely different discipline has to be rewarding for a teacher.

More at Reuters.

Photo: Reuters

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