Directions in children's literature; 5
Directions in children's literature Riverside radio WRVO in New York City presents the fifth in a second series of programs with Richard Lewis poet and teacher and leading authorities in the field of children's literature. At this time most of us his guest is Norma can a dense therapist whose recent book and a time to dance is published by Beacon Press. This is Richard Lewis and my guest today is Mrs. Norma Khanna who has written a most remarkable book called and a time to dance. And this is kind of has been working with children who. Have been born with a particular type of problems and she will explain more of this later in in the program what she's been working in a very specialized area which is called basically movement. Now the reason I've asked Mrs. Kantor on the program aside from the fact that she's written this wonderful
book is the fact that I feel very strongly about the fact that. We are so concerned with the verbal use of language with the verbal communication that we often forget the tremendous importance that should be given to children in terms of their communicating other than with spoken language. And I think certainly that Mrs. Cantor has achieved this in the most remarkable way and I have asked her today to come and tell us something about her experiences in working with children in this whole area of movement. And I kind of I wonder if you could just begin by telling us how you got involved in this whole area of in the first place. Well it's a long story but I'll try not to take up too much time with it. I started early in
my life I guess in my 20s which was early to be an actress and I spent five years Broadway and environs. And then I was married and moved to Boston and decided that I wanted to try something different and after my children moved on I found a teacher by the name of Miss Barbara met. Who gave me an experience in movement and changed my whole life. It was so different the orientation was so different in terms of focusing on who was talented and who wasn't talented and it was so noncommercial in the sense that it was focused on that everybody could dance that anyone who could move could have a movement experience and it could be shared with other people it could be done alone it could be just an
experience that had no bounds and had no limits. So really this was the beginning. And then I moved to Toledo Ohio and mis met was said to me Well you'll have to start teaching now and I never in my life thought that I would be a teacher but she said no one's teaching created a movement out there. And I had a little girl and so I thought maybe this would help her get introduced to the community and I started classes at the YWCA. And it just grew I taught it all kinds of settlement houses and community centers and I had a class for adult ladies who used to come in the morning and one time one of the ladies came up to me afterwards and said you know you're doing group therapy Well I'd never heard the word of the term or anything and so I said well what is that. And so she started to tell me about group therapy and it was let's see I guess this was must have been about 15 years ago. And so she said how would you like to do an experiment at the
Toledo St. Hospital. So. I said well I didn't know very much about it but she said she'd help me. So we worked on the program planning a program and we experimented in this hospital with 50 women and we had a control group of 25. And these were skits a friend of women who'd been in the hospital for 25 years and many of them were catatonics you know lying in that little standing position. And it was an incredible experience because many of these women got up and danced together. One lady went over and played the piano for the first time and everybody danced together. And now I know there was a lady tied in the chair so that she wouldn't fall out. And when I gave everybody in the circle instruments I gave her some in her hands and I danced with her while she was in her chair. And so I you know I kept adapting all the time to the people who were in the
group. And I also gave an in-service training program to the staff so they would understand what I was doing. And it worked out very well and that was my first experience working with a typical people. And then I was asked to give some lectures to nursery school teachers. And after each lecture somebody would come up to me and ask me if I thought that this material would be a pleasurable to people and children with special problems. And I said well I don't know but we could try it. And so we did. And I think I said in the book I had many more successes than failures. And I guess that's what kept me going. Well I was I was wondering before we go any further you just so they want to know who is listening could perhaps understand better what you're involved in. Could you give some explanation of what creative movement is. Yes. In this instance it's Dancing with the young children and
providing them with an opportunity to explore and discover their bodies in their feelings textures shapes and sounds. Alone or in a group. And it's really providing them with an environment in which the child can lose his inhibitions. When he can become intrigued with strange and exciting instruments and it's an environment which the aggressive child is given an outlet for pent up energies and hostile feelings. Most of all it's an opportunity when every child is a time to experience the joy and freedom of using his body in his creative uniqueness. I think just if I can just comment upon that in terms of the book that you've just written here I'll mention it very briefly at the start that you have been working with children who are retarded. And that the pictures in this particular book show retarded children responding to
your work. But what comes through in the book and I think this is really one of the remarkable things in the book is that just because the children are retarded doesn't mean that your whole idea of working with children in this area is completely and only to be used with retarded children that in a sense it is for all children that what can apply to the rich or to children applies to all children and that there is this creative uniqueness in all human beings retarded or not. And again in terms of your own writing in the book you don't mention the fact that these children are retarded except in the beginning. After a while we completely forget that they are retarded. They become certainly in terms of the book completely alive and completely themselves. In short human beings. And I'd like to just ask you one further question from the definition you've given here. Why is this important. Why should children have
creative movement. I'm going to answer your question but first I want to say that the that because you talk about that if we would not a nanny I'd jump up and do a dance about I don't like space I have that so very well. The first place I didn't know anything about retarded children which was a great advantage because I only looked at them as children and their children first above everything else. And as I always tell my teachers I only know one way and it's the one way I use for everybody whether they're 70 or whether they're 5 I even danced with babies 3 and 2. It just works for everybody you adapt to the people with whom you're working. You asked me why is it important to you as a movement. Well there are lots of reasons but I think the most important one is that it's another way of expressing our innermost being
wings that words can't always express. And I think that our culture so educates the eye in the ear sometimes that we have forgotten how to express movement feelings. And also we are ashamed of feeling and expressing ourselves through movement. Yes. And I think again what you've also mentioned in the book is that. But the only thing you ask of the children in the class is that they be involved that. But in this whole area there is no wrong or right. Again getting back to our whole social conditioning is that I think particularly children have the feeling today that that whatever they do in terms of output so to speak is often material to be graded or an act to be graded or it is something that is to be either criticised or chastised for one reason of it. It is enjoyed again good or
bad. All you're asking of the children is that they be involved that they become a part in essentially as we will see later as you hopefully will tell us they become involved in the circle of communication. Within a room I'd like from this point if you we could do this is perhaps you're just going into what is a typical session a typical class that you get with the children if you could just sort of chronologically begin right from the beginning and simply let me ask you this how do you begin a class with children in movement. Yes well I think before I began I'd like to say the class I'd like to say before we go into the classroom that. People sometimes sell this kind of child short. Well I think if we look at them we can learn a great deal and from many of the reasons which you have described. Just involvement and asking them to be involved. I can only do it by
making the material attractive enough. And that's up to the teacher. And in order for it to be attractive enough it has to be interesting enough for them to become involved. So that's how I begin. And when I come into the room I come with some instruments and different materials but I put them either outside the door so that we don't have to grab out of the basket and put the things back or I place them up high for a while and I come in with my voice we talk. I say oh how great to see you again. Come on over here on the floor with me and let's take off my shoes and socks because it feels so good to feel a flaw with our bare feet and it gives you a different feeling it gives all of us of a sense that it's a time to dance that we're going to begin. And we sit in a circle which is the natural. Formation for a group to take. We can see each other. We can touch each other. We can share experiences movement experiences and even talk experience. And
if the group doesn't seem to want to be in the floor I sometimes. Are they running around. His children will do with lots of energy. I say let's get down in our bellies flat and I'll do it. Sometimes I won't use a lot of language but I'll do it in with them and we'll all get down and we'll look at each other with our eyes open wide not talk about the color of eyes and we'll have to look at each other's eyes to see what color they are and it makes us laugh. And that's an awfully good way to begin sharing a joke. Yes you sort of immediately relaxing the children get to feel a sort of oneness with you. Yes yes and this is true in the very Except of of course they don't size you up unless there's someone who is more timid and withdrawn and they'll just simply wait. Yes you know because when you're mentioning there's one about the child who is withdrawn in the class for one reason or has a Mormon. Sure he doesn't want to. In a sense participate in the class. What do you do in a situation
like. Well I respect that child and I expect the teacher in the classroom to respect that child's wishes. And I asked the teacher please don't force that child to come in. Let him give him time. Some people need time to evaluate a situation they aren't plunges in to something they want to test it out and see what's going to happen. And I never have seen a child who stayed out the whole session. You know they always come because it's just so much fun. Yes I was this is always a curious thing about children is that those that will often begin a class by isolating themselves one reason or another. This isn't their real wish. I mean they're doing it for some other reason sometimes. And Bonnie after 15 minutes or so has passed you suddenly notice they're involved in the group. They sort of have crept into the whole the whole excitement of the class itself without even you know making any demonstration of their willing to come into the exact
manner that it suddenly without all realizing you bring up a motherless point because the teacher has to leave a space in her hand ready open you know not looking or confronting the child because maybe he can't really make it that way. He has to sneak in as you said because he's. Not sure sometimes if he's going to like it I'll make it. Some children can't stand being in a circle right away. Yeah so. But if you leave a place always open you know and move ready to include the child in the group. It just always works. Right now you've got them in the circle. And what happens from here. Do you have certain routine exercises that you get them to just begin to do each session or is it different in every session. Well I have kind of a basic plan and when I first started out I used to have it written down just through that number again. I did something that thank you with and besides I have to move around so fast I couldn't even stop
to look at but one thing I do is I keep a very sharp eye out for a small movement that I can pick up and make ledger for instance if I don't start out with it. Exercises to warm up the up the body in the beginning I find a nice way of starting it classes. Say oh look what James has done he's stamping the floor with his feet and what a great noise it's making. Let's all do a stamping dance or someone snapping his fingers so somebody is shaking his hands or somebody is you know just wiggling around I'll say let's do a wiggling dance. In other words I'm looking at the group to see what's going on. So you really take the clue from me. Yes I take the clue group. For instance if a child was accused hung out. Yeah. Example like that. What would you do right. I have a sticking out tongue. I do I say. Can you stick your tongue out and touch your chin and you know you like that and we all do it and I say can you do you know those and can you
make it go from side to side and then say can you go with me like that. Because a lot of these children don't speak and I find that it warms up their whole speaking apparatus and they will sing very often will take hands and will just saying you know a lot of loud sounds and humming sounds. Yeah in move as the sound is coming out of the movement. We're both things like we are. How do you get a.. I really have it. You know you can really tell if they are with you I think. Well sometimes I do like I exercises by shutting the eyes opening them my looking from side to side. And as I said before I will look at the color of each other's eyes but the eyes are kind of part of the whole face we do face dances making funny faces and wiggling them all around and when the teacher does that it's really you know they think that Larry is you because there's the teacher on the floor making funny faces with them. Yeah it's beautiful.
Yes I have an interesting life happened to me yesterday. I was I was doing some movement with the children that I work with and I always try to get myself involved somehow with whatever they're doing. One of the children looked at me said Mr. Lewis you're demented today. But I know I think you don't bring up this point which is which I think is terribly important that in every movement that the children are doing you're doing as well. But there is this constant participation on your part as well as every child because yes you've got to be part of it with these children you can't be outside of it or it won't work. Yes now you mention isolating separate parts of the body. Can we again move on from the circle to the SO. Yes exercise into to this area then the isolation part. That's a very important area because so many children
in this particular time I think watch television and their concept of what the word means means just a very small area of dance and very often these little children lies and dance and they'll jump up and down or they'll do try to imitate something they've seen. So by isolating the separate body parts in other words I was like Let's do a finger dance together. Or would you make a finger dance. Pointing to a special child. And then when this child has made a particularly interesting movement I'll say that's my last movement with your fingers let's all do that thing they dance together. And when everybody does it together it takes on a different you know it looks much more important. And then. Say let's do an elbow dance can you dance with your elbows. What can you do with your elbows. Sometimes one elbow sometimes two elbows and then go on to shoulder dance ahead dance dance. And then of course you know the face and the
tongue and all those separate parts of the body that you mention. Then you can break this up now from the circle you can go into duets and ask two children to do a hand dance together. Now with a little all the children that I'm working with at the present time I'll give them a problem and especially good to Head Start children. I have done this with them not just had stuck children all children. They get a sense of themselves and what their bodies can do and how much I KICK U lation separate parts of their body can make it and express it. Now when you mention hands is there music in the background. What is the accompaniment. No no music I don't use any music. Not that you can't. But in the beginning I found that especially children of teachers of preschool children would get so attached to the piano which most of them couldn't play you know extremely well this is not a slight It's just that most people.
It's difficult to play the piano and teach a class of movement and accompany them you have to be quite skilled at this and also to find the right record to go with the right thing and you don't need it yet. We have our own voice we have our own sounds that a body can make and we learn to discover sounds in the wrong sounds around us the whole world is that we can discover most of our own rhythmical feelings. We don't know what rhythmical feelings exist until we try to bring them out without the music which is which predetermines mood and beat. But in other words you use a lot of hand clapping and feet using the feet for the rhythms which the stamping tongue. All kinds of singing all kinds of clapping you know stamping scraping and I can sort of see than that. Improvisation yes is a key to this whole the whole business. I thought that you must rely upon the scene of of a thought of an idea from the
children and from there you grow right into endless areas in terms of I mean if a child happens be clicking his tongue I suspect you probably take that as a clue. Yes for going on into something where the rhythm of that song could be. Expand and expand. Yeah right. What about the materials. But you you. Because I notice in the book you mention a great deal of use and I'm somehow manipulating the material so that becomes a part of the movement itself and the movement often originates material that's so exciting and I have learned so much from these children about materials. And I've even gotten ideas from Alwin Nicholai. I mean there's nothing that in the whole world that maybe can't be a part of our experience too which is so exciting. For instance I discovered that they like to use tissue paper because tissue paper makes an exquisite sound.
Should've brought a piece and it gives immediate satisfaction and response. Children who have been quite withdrawn have enjoyed the color I use this colored tissue paper which you can buy in the tenth and store and it floats and you blow it and you can dance together with it you can make real strong aggressive movements and swish it around you won't hurt anybody. Boys in particular you can walk on it and makes crinkly sounds and you can roll it up in a ball and you can even mostly never tear it up until the end sometimes by accident gets torn and will do a tearing up tissue paper dance. And then we'll all be throwing it up in the air. But everybody's involved in everybody's having a good time in there's there's all kind of parachute cloth and Jersey and Clorox bottles with shakers in the reason I discovered that was because they kept breaking the maracas that I would spend a lot of money to buy. So now we have Michael Clarke's balls was shake and so forth and they have to they've done all of this they have a rest.
Yes. Now what happens is right we have a rest period mostly because I get tired but they really rest well you know it's just the same for all of us that we have this feeling of activity and pass in the day and quiet and wrist and it's a time to. Just really the heart beat comes back to where it is. It beats and rests and beats and I assume we do too and we all lie down together and we get our strength back. When we breathe in the breathing is beautiful and that has its own them in sharing this sick experience or resting on the floor. And it's a real one. It's not resting because the teacher says now it's time to rest so we all have to lie down on the floor whether you're tired and not you know you don't always feel like taking a rest. But after this activity really they may rest quite beautifully.
What clue do you have that the rest period has to be finished. They usually will tell me you know somebody will get up and say yes again and will gradually get out and start to dance again and how much taller on the average would say a class. Will the theories I used died out at 20 minutes and it grows to half an hour. And now I can stay in classes for an hour and maybe because I allow more time for rest and I allow more time for people to come in and out very often some of the children will go out and rest a little bit. And some children will feel like dancing and I'll go on dancing with them we'll dance together and then the other people will come back. Some of my most exciting experiences have been after some people have come back in again what is now being done in terms of
training people to become as I must say as poetic and professional disaster as yourself in this whole area. Well of course I work in the area of Boston and for the number of years that I have been teaching in the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health I have been most fortunate in having young ladies of exceptional qualities who have been my assistant. Of course there are always so beautiful they go off and get married and move somewhere else. I always say well I'm going to retire next year and then my assistants gone. No but many of the colleges around Boston. So I just Thompson Simmons and we lock assign their students to work with me and that's how I train them and then I give lectures at the colleges and that's how I have the students come to me you know.
And you put the students through pretty much the same routine the same. They can bring this in me to the school and then I give workshops with our teachers in-service training workshops and they attend those. Well this is kind of I must interrupt you because I can go and sleep at all times unfortunately come to an end but. I can only say that I think that what you're doing and certainly the book and a time to dance which has been published by Beacon Press should and will be certainly an inspiration for people to go into an area that has been on Fortunately I think the collected by so many people but which I think is as important as any area in education today. Thank you so much. Thank you Mr. Lewis. You've been listening to Richard Lewis and Norma Canada talking about the problems of teaching the retarded child Mrs. Cantor's book and a time to dance is published by Beacon Press. The poet and teacher Richard Lewis is the author of four
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-3-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- Chicago: “Directions in children's literature; 5,” 1969-01-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 26, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-c824g90z.
- MLA: “Directions in children's literature; 5.” 1969-01-16. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 26, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-c824g90z>.
- APA: Directions in children's literature; 5. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-c824g90z