Share This Page

Shaler students Attack performance art program

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Bethany Hofstetter | Shaler Journal
Liz Chang, a dancer with Attack Theatre, leads Shaler Area Elementary art teacher Monica McElwain’s sixth-graders in creating a dance using words and images they used to describe their artwork as dance as part of the grant-funded residency program with the dance company aimed to inspire students and introduce them to dance and movement in relation to visual arts.

Shaler Area Elementary School students turned their works of visual art into performance art during a residency program with Attack Theatre.

Performers from the Pittsburgh-based dance theater came to the school to help Monica McElwain's sixth-grade art students find connections between types of art, and find inspiration to create art from unconventional places.

“We wanted them to be inspired by something — inspired to create artwork, inspired to create movement,” said Liz Chang, an Attack Theatre dancer who worked with the students this month. “We hoped to get them to come out of their comfort zone and think differently.”

In partnership with the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Attack Theatre dancers complete residencies in school districts to engage young students. They worked with about 333 Shaler Area Elementary sixth-graders this semester.

McElwain asked students to look at photographs, words and phrases on which to base a work of visual art. Students then described those paintings or visual artworks with words and phrases that were used to create a dance.

“My art was blurry and rocky, so we moved rough,” said Bella James, a sixth-grader. “We were using our bodies to create the artwork. Sometimes, the most simple (movements) fit into dance.”

Rosie Piett, a sixth-grader, said she learned that dance is more than ballet steps.

“It can be weird and fun. You can do anything you want to do, movement,” Piett said. “It was fun and funny to see everybody doing it.”

Grants from the PPG Industries Foundation's Public Education Leadership Community grant program and Target Corp.'s Arts, Culture & Design Grant program, along with a partnership with Pennsylvania Council on the Arts' Arts in Education Division, Pittsburgh, funded the residency.

The Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts offers artist residency projects and matching money to schools, and Shaler Area partnered with Attack Theatre through the program.

The residency program and grants allowed Shaler Area Elementary School to host Attack Theatre's Random Accumulated Memories performance for the whole school this semester.

Students in McElwain's sixth-grade art classes worked with Attack Theatre dancers twice. A smaller group also attended a field trip this month at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

“It's important,” McElwain said. “I don't think a lot of them get to go out and have the exposure of multicultural arts. These are ways of getting their minds going.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.