Students and recent graduates from The Juilliard School in New York returned this year to put on another week of arts workshops with Common Hope. The group was led again by Annalise Thompson, a recent Juilliard grad and founder of Rayos de Cancion, an organization dedicated to bringing arts experiences to children in Guatemala.
The artists taught students at our Santa Catarina partner school a fusion of dance, music, and drama, and they prepared students for a performance at the end of the week.
The fourth grade worked with Matt and Katharine, who taught students how to sing rounds. They sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” learning the words and technique of the round and also interpreting the story—writing their own verses and acting out the song. Some kids were animals in the water, some were rowing a boat, some were running in the sand and jumping into the water. The kids really got into the performance, coming up with their interpretations, costumes, and props. One kid came on Friday with a boat that he had made with a frame and some fabric. It had a flag on the mast and even a name: Titanic.
The fifth grade worked with Annalise and Danica, who read a Guatemalan legend to them. The kids then acted it out, adding movement and steps. At the performance, a couple of kids read the legend out loud as others acted it out. They also put music to each scene. Many kids came dressed up, and the kids brought lots of props.
Marchant and Kerry worked with the sixth grade. They read a poem by Pablo Neruda, “The Poet’s Obligation,” and the kids then split into groups to interpret the poem and create a performance. Building off the poem, they incorporated themes of the ocean, sun, planets, and thunder.
All three grades also worked with Avery, who introduced visual arts by having the kids help paint a backdrop for Friday’s performance, a Guatemalan landscape. She wanted the kids to express themselves artistically and work as a team.
The Friday performance was a celebration of the hard work the students put into practicing, and the instructors really noticed a transformation by the end of the week. “The first day, it was really hard to communicate with them—language was a difficult obstacle,” says Marchant, “but after working with them, they found a communication through art and work, and a willingness to perform.” Annalise agrees: “I loved seeing the students blossom with enthusiasm once they were confident in their performance.” The artists say they saw a few students really come into their own and take ownership and leadership over the performance.
The Juilliard group felt their own transformation throughout the week as well. Avery says she has a “renewed love for art and communication across language and cultural barriers” after working with the children. Says group leader Annalise, “We will bring back this experience with us and encourage others to teach art. Universal art transcends culture. We’ve all been inspired, and if we inspire just one kid, that’s enough.”