If you come to the dance studio in the basement of the Mary Louise Curtis Branch, you’re going to end up moving around, no matter what.
That’s what dance faculty Kaye Fernandez inspires in everyone, not just her students.
Her youngest students, both in Creative Movement classes and in the Kaleidoscope Pre-K, move around the room to collect the letters to BINGO, accompanied by the familiar song about a farmer and his dog, or dance while they spell and chant “POWER,” which serves as kind of a mini-mantra, stressing the idea of moving with purpose.
“One of the best ways of making connections is through movement,” she says. That applies both to new experiences with the world and with relationships to other people.
Fernandez has always been drawn to movement and dance, as a professional ballet dancer in her native Peru and as a movement therapist and social worker in hospital settings. She remembers thinking, as a child, that she was moved to dance because she had ribbons running through her body instead of blood.
“People move before they’re even born,” she notes, pointing out the naturalness of movement, and her classes encourage the kind of stimulation and release of pent-up energy that young children need.
“Creative movement” doesn’t mean a free-for-all, though: It combines purposeful movement with music, reading and storytelling. Fernandez also emphasizes breaking down basic processes and using your senses. Class activities, which includes story-time and memory exercises, follow her formulation: “Look, think, then you move.”
Even in a class of 15 students, Fernandez takes time for students who have physical, emotional or behavioral challenges. She takes pride in seeing the progress that these students make from the first time they come to class in September compared to later in the year.
“Sometimes students come in who are super-shy,” she says. “It takes time for them to become more confident and then to come out and participate.”
Some of these students who start out at age 4 or 5 continue on in Settlement’s dance program; several of Fernandez’s current Advanced Ballet students started with her in Kaleidoscope or Creative Movement classes. Photos of some of those ballerinas, as well as ones of Fernandez from her dancing career, decorate the studio and the hall outside, setting an example of what the right combination of movement and discipline can offer.
“I want students to believe they are strong and that they can do anything.”