Kids Do Dance

The Yard and Martha’s Vineyard Museum unite to create a unique youth program.


Any kids who are interested in the intersection of dance, nurturing their creativity, and Island history are in for a treat if they sign up for the Yard’s weeklong spring break program, Kids Do Dance. The program, which was originally called Kids Make Dance, was started in 2011 with Deb Damast, a dance educator and choreographer, who was assisted by graduate students from the New York University Steinhardt Dance Education Program. Kids Do Dance enables children to build dance skills, develop their own original choreography, and create work collaboratively, and is open to all levels of experience and ability.

Usually, Kids Do Dance takes place in the summer, and only in the mornings. But for this go-around, it will run from 9 am to 2:30 pm. Covering more of the day was something Yvonne Mendez, the Yard’s acting executive director and program director, wanted to do in an effort to offer working parents an opportunity for coverage while nurturing the kids’ creativity. She adds, “We also got a grant from the Barr Foundation to do some experimental programs, and we thought, Hey, we can use this little shot in the arm to see if it will work.”

Island dance teacher Claire Paige will facilitate the creative program, which blends learning, imagination, and storytelling with movement. She has been involved with Kids Do Dance for many years, and loves inspiring a new crop of dancers and choreographers. The youth, ages 6 through 12, will work together to create an original work that they then share with parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends on the final day.

This year there will be a storytelling aspect to the piece relating to Island history, which is where the Yard’s collaboration with the Martha’s Vineyard Museum comes in. It was inspired by the experience last summer when, as Mendez explains, “One of the highlights was that there were two students from the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe who were focused on the children’s book ‘Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection,’ so they integrated storytelling into the dance.”

For this upcoming program, the new partnership with the Martha’s Vineyard Museum adds the opportunity to integrate Island history into the dance work. Museum educator Rebecca Nutton explains her role: “I will lead the children on a museum exploration based on the themes that they are exploring through movement and dance with Claire. We will investigate exhibits, hear oral histories, and examine interesting artifacts to deepen their understanding and pull inspiration for their creative projects. We also want to see what the children find to be most interesting and go from there, allowing them to play a part in designing their experience here.”

Kids Do Dance enables children to learn, think creatively, move freely, and work collaboratively.

As Fiona MacLean, the Yard’s marketing and development manager, says, “We wanted this to be a program for parents who are working that is not just a safe place to drop their children but that is expansive and engages the kids’ bodies and mind for the whole week.”

Kids Do Dance runs from April 17 to 21, Monday through Friday, at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. Drop-off is at 8:45 to 9 am, with sessions going from 9 am to 2:30 pm. Registration is $400 per session per child. Limited to 12 spots. Some dance scholarships are available to help families who find the cost a barrier. People can email to inquire further.