Drama and Movement Curriculum
Getting to know you: The Lower Group drama and movement class is an informal mix of creative dramatics and imaginative movement-based activities. The over arching goal is to provide the children with a wonderful, relaxed, fun-filled introduction to creative movement. Dance education is at the forefront in order to help younger children break away from preconceived notions of gender roles. Ballet, African Dance, Jazz, and Hip Hop become the world in which the children explore and thrive. We all dance through life!
Lower Group drama is a merry mix of active free-form movement, acting games, dance appreciation, and experimentation. Movement skills and physical fitness are encouraged through noncompetitive play such as catching, kicking, skipping, rope jumping, and of course, running. Children this age are not expected to perform in the traditional sense. Performance opportunities abound in the wild and tumble world of class twice a week, in monthly assemblies, and on the day-to-day stage that is the world of the four-to-six year old.
Laughter is the key component to this curriculum. Wild, uninhibited dramatic play meets the academics of dance study and rudimentary stage skills. The drama teacher is an integral part of the youngest class at Walden, whether leading them in a rambunctious game of Storm or assisting them into their raincoats on a rainy day.
Lower Middle Group
Teaching your wings to grow: The raucous, fun filled world of Drama and Movement at Walden continues to abound in the Lower Middle Group with fun, surprises, and developmentally appropriate theatrical endeavor. The free-form movement activities of the Lower Group are gently reinvented as more formal, more structured dances. The sing-alongs and drama games are refined into short scenes and mini-musical numbers. The children creatively respond to a variety of props from dancing scarves to rhythm sticks and small, soft balls to make up dances of their own whim or to follow guided instruction. Each child’s imagination is vitally important.
This age group loves dramatic play so it makes perfect sense that they would coauthor their end-of-year performance. The “script” is never actually on paper, instead it is an organic expression of a blueprint for fun that is etched into the children’s minds, bodies, and hearts. Children learn more about African dance, ballet, jazz, and hip hop. They focus on acting skills. Creating a character involves a series of steps that include memorization, enunciation, and improvisation. A basic goal is projection of the personality or character. The children are encouraged to be assertive as they find their way through the imaginary world of theatre. All of this results in a whirlwind, year-end guided performance for family and friends when each child is given an opportunity to shine.
Oh the thinks you can think: Our primary goal in the Middle Group is to create exciting, challenging performances that feature singing, acting, and dancing. Drama at this level is difficult in many ways, yet ultimately satisfying. The most important aspects of Drama and Movement are that it should be challenging, encourage development of new skills, and be fun! In other words, drama is fun!
Performances in the Middle Group have an alternating schedule between Patterns A and B. In Pattern A there is one performance in the late spring, and in Pattern B there are two performances, one in the winter and one in the spring. As children rotate through the Middle Group each child experiences both patterns. Pattern A offers room to develop a cohesive drama program at a leisurely pace. There’s more time for process, technique, anatomy of dance, drama history, games, and student input. Pattern B offers the whirlwind of rehearsal and the validation of more frequent performing. The enthusiastic feedback of an adoring audience of family and friends encourages confidence in Walden’s budding young performers. The schedule also allows for fun and games, team building, and laughter.
You are your own star: “Sing Cha-Cha-Cha!” So goes the cry of an Afro-Cuban song that recent classes have danced to. It exemplifies the depth and range of Upper Group. Young people in this age group radiate with an abundance of goodwill, integrity, strength, and hope that transfers well to the rigors of a challenging multi-act theatrical performance. The annual Upper Group Play is a cherished tradition at Walden that children begin to anticipate and prepare for long before they are in the Upper Group. The play is a transcendent experience in which the absolutely unbridled enthusiasm of youth is seen gloriously through the primitive art of theatre. Over the course of this three-year program children work their way through a series of age-appropriate challenges.
The children prepare in a variety of ways that actually begin in the earlier grades. Students are prepared intellectually by watching and analyzing clips of live performances. Singing is an art form and a science. Students can explore this world by singing in class for each other and by listening to great singers and figuring out how they can improve and develop their own singing muscles. The idea of vocal register or “tessitura” is examined.
Acting is explored through role-playing, theatre games, and building characters through the method of intentions. Dialogue and comedy are explored actively in class through the laboratory of rehearsal and creating character biographies. Periodically the works of Shakespeare are explored which allows in depth study of history, gender roles (as well as reversing them!) and language.
Expression through dance is vital. Dance as physical fitness opens up the discussion of anatomy. Dance as a cultural exponent develops discussion about the African-American influence on popular culture through dance as well as adapting and investigating dance styles from Europe, West Africa, the Caribbean, and India. An Upper Group dance class romps through the atlas of world influence. As we explore divergent dance styles we also learn about the impact of cultural influences in each genre. The joy of what each movement style brings is a powerful road to understanding why the children move the way they move. A ballet plié is a gateway to a West African harvesting dance. African “close to the ground” is the opposite of European “pulled up.” The commonality is that it is all dance and it is a great means of self-expression.
Everyone creates her or his own personal “inner masterpiece” in the class. The class develops a sense of teamwork as they collaborate on the challenge of creating a theatrical work that displays each child’s development and growth.
A History of the Upper Group Final Performance 1994 - East Bay Story 1995 - The Sound of Walden 1996 - Brush Up Your Shakespeare 1997 - Of Thee I Sing 1998 - Rock n Roll High 1999 - 2 Gentlewomen of Verona 2000 - East Bay Story (revisal) 2001 - Nothing Stimulates the Imagination Like a Wall 2002 - Shakespeare the Remix 2003 - Oliver’s Urban Twist 2004 - Don’t Get it Twisted 2005 - How Ya Like Me Now? 2006 - Right On! Be Free! 2007 - I Know You Got Soul 2008 - Oliver’s Urban Twist (revisal) 2009 - The Dream 2010 - Don’t Get it Twisted (revisal) 2011 - Cats 2012 - Gaining a Clear Perspective by Taking a Step Back 2013 - I Know You Got Soul (revisal) 2014 - Urban Legends 2015 - Oliver’s Urban Twist (revisal) 2016 - A Midsummer Night’s Groove 2017 - Don’t Get it Twisted (revisal) 2018 - I Know You Got Soul (revisal) 2019 - Ain’t No Half Steppin’ 2020 - East Bay Story (title reused but not a revisal) 2021 - A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The Remix 2022 - You are the Sky the Rest is Just Weather 2023 - The 2023 Upper Group Variety Show: No Place Like Home. *Revisal: The play was previously performed but rewritten for the individual wonders of that particular group. Theatres: 1994 and 1995: Finnish Brotherhood Hall (Berkeley) 1996 - 2002: Live Oak Theatre (Berkeley) 2003: Julia Morgan Theatre (Berkeley 2004 - 2016: Live Oak Theatre (Berkeley) 2016 - 2019: East Bay Center for the Performing Arts (Richmond) 2020: Filmed “Live” on Zoom! 2021: Filmed on location at Wild Cat Canyon Community School (El Sobrante) 2022: Piano Fight (Oakland) 2023: Walden Center and School (Berkeley)