By Bellamy Crawford
A name like “Waterfall Wise” might bring to mind someone who is highly imaginative, an abstract thinker, a free spirit perhaps, or someone accustomed to finding symbols around them in everyday life. Waterfall Wise, the dance specialist at ArtSpace Charter School, is all of these things, and it’s one reason she’s successful at helping young students connect their history, science or literature curriculum to the way their bodies feel moving through space.
At ArtSpace Charter School, students explore science, math, social studies and language through the arts and technology. Integrating art into academic subjects brings to life all of the content in traditional curriculum and allows students to be totally immersed in the subject matter. Waterfall Wise provides the dance and movement portion of exploring traditional subject matter through an artist’s lens.
“Growing up, I always said that I would be a criminal justice judge, but all I did was dance, perform, choreograph and teach,” she says. “I realized that I was born to dance; it heals me. It is innately integral to the uniqueness that is Waterfall.”
After teaching at the high school and university levels for many years, Waterfall realized the importance of introducing movement earlier in the physical, cognitive and emotional development of young students. “I strongly believe in a holistic approach to teaching,” she says. “My evolution into multiple styles of dance enables me to introduce additional elements to the media and performing arts genres. I challenge the boundaries of dance choreography to tell stories and explore the depth of movement and composition.”
In order to connect dance and literature in one of Waterfall’s classes, students are instructed to move their bodies in response to a scene from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, enhancing the understanding of plot and character through both literal and abstract movement.
“For a scene involving witches, I would have them creep around on all fours, then turn over into a backbend and start walking backwards on all fours,” Waterfall says. “They could wave dark fabric and spin to an intense beat around a cauldron at the center of the floor. As they begin saying lines from the play, they continue to sway right and left in a creepy way. They can easily identify the lines by the movements associated with them. When students put the storyline on their bodies, it increases retention and promotes a thirst for knowledge.”
Waterfall is inspired by her students’ “out-of-the-box” creativity, their fearless embrace of experiential learning and their hunger to learn. “ArtSpace Charter School perpetually serves as a conduit for the quintessential learning experience for our students and for me,” she says.
Equally important to learning dance as an artistic form early in life is having the opportunity to express one’s self with movement in a nonjudgmental environment.
“Ms. Waterfall teaches students to expand toward and past their potential, unlocking their self-confidence,” says Meg Novak, K-8 music specialist. “She is also a modern thinker and exposes children to music and movement that they are interested in accessing, while also making connections to traditional technique and performance values. Students in Ms. Waterfall’s class are free to express themselves through movement, in a safe and welcoming space that does not judge, but offers critique and support to allow students to tell their own story.”
ArtSpace Charter School is located at 2030 US-70 in Swannanoa. For more information, visit ArtSpaceCharter.org.