Why We Dance: Guest Blog by Shari Mastalski

Recently, we said goodbye to our artist in residency, dancer Shari Mastalski. During her final recital, “Room 113 and the Girls Group” performed their interpretative dances of the Four Seasons. It was a fun and inspirational day! I asked Shari if she would be willing to write a guest blog for me, and I’m thrilled she agreed! I hope you enjoy her creativity and vision as much as we did. 

~ Maureen


What is creative dance and why does it matter?  Creative dance offers a playful exploration of three elements: Space, Time, and Energy.  Space includes levels, size, direction, pathways, and shape-making.  Time includes rhythm, beat, tempo, duration, and stillness.  Energy includes contrasting qualities of movement.  These elements become the solvent to infuse class or individual goals and subjects, making learning more available and relevant.  Creative dance creates an environment to learn body and space management, listening, focus, and relationship building.  Perhaps the one learning the most is the teacher who is practicing the lessons along with the students.  What have I learned?  Presence, being the space-shaper, the brilliance of being together, voicing vision, listening, doing something that moves the vision forward, and being momentarily still.

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Shari and the group move like snowflakes.

These 20 days have been spent playing with seasons and weather: winter snow, spring rain, summer sun, and autumn wind.  Offering props inspires.  We felt the smoothness of the satin and the crunch of the Cheerios, responding with smooth and sharp dance moves.  Building stories relates. From the students: “If I were snow, I would be the snow in the clouds waiting for the right moment to fall.”  “If I were rain, I would be a puddle for jumping and splashing.”  “If I were the sun, I would brighten the room.”  “If I were the wind, I would blow a sailboat across the lake.”  What would you be?  We have danced with umbrellas and rainbows, snowflakes, sun hoops, water drops, and fans.

Putting this residency together requires a complex process, including gathering six girls from three classrooms and sparing paraprofessionals or teachers to come to the lessons.  Thank you to all who made this creative dance residency possible for these beautiful students.  I am blessed to be in this grand learning environment.  Everyone has graciously invested time and energy to bring this dance to life.  The impact must surely be powerful on unseen, unmeasured levels.  What we do see, is astounding enough.  Students respond with attentiveness, smiles, laughter, movement, sound, bringing great energy, cheerfulness, and enthusiasm in all they do.  We are always looking for each student’s unique talents and abilities.  We are also looking for ways to enhance the ongoing classroom experience with the active arts we have practiced.

Snow is falling gently, softly, smoothly

Snow is whirling wildly

Snow is blowing everywhere

Cold, Brrr!

Snow is still when it stops

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The Girls Group with Shari

 


After achieving her bachelor’s degree in horticulture with minors in dance and theater, at the age of 54, Shari Karn Mastalski went on to complete a master’s degree in sustainable systems.  Shari is a creative dance teaching artist with Erie Arts and Culture and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.  She also leads Bible studies with active arts and informal sustainable systems sessions.  Shari performs with Wing and A Prayer Pittsburgh Players.

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