Miller Rothlein is a company with an emphasis on learning, and it encourages engagement and involvement with artists and audiences alike around its unique exploration and integration of contemporary choreography, video, and visual art. MIRO believes that when people are exposed to and involved in the creative process, they are more likely to attend performances and become supporters of the company and the art form as a whole.
MIRO’s Girard College Educational Program and Residency.
In 2006, Miller Rothlein was invited by David Timony, then the Chair of the Fine Arts Department at Girard College, to participate in a groundbreaking partnership in which Girard College provides Miller Rothlein with year-round, free studio and office space in return for establishing a dance program for the students.
The College is a private boarding school for academically capable students, grades 1 through 12, from families with limited financial resources that are headed by a single parent or guardian. In this direct in-kind partnership, MIRO provides not only dance/arts education for middle school students, but also a professional model of arts careers. The program was further formalized this year, as it became integrated into Girard’s programming as an official after-school activity. Classes now take place twice a week instead of just once, and occur during afternoon hours rather than in the evenings, when students are reluctant to give up free time. In 2011 the students in the classes created their own work paralleling MIRO’s development of PUNCH, and also enjoyed visits from guest artists, as well as special integration with MIRO’s Cambodia residency activities.
Funding helps remedy a critical need for new ideas and influences through instruction and input from guest teachers. The dance students receive dance instruction primarily from Amanda Miller under a curriculum designed as a creative movement and choreographic concept program rather than a technique-based program. It is important for the dance students to be exposed to a wide range of choreographic possibilities and dance techniques so that they can have a wider base of understanding of what constitutes dance and a dance career; students themselves have expressed a desire to learn more technique and to have a regular class that challenges them physically. This past year Miller Rothlein brought in guest artists to teach modern dance technique, improvisation and choreography, and to facilitate interaction with the Cambodian residency. Nine weeks of guest instruction are planned for the coming year, and a total of six weeks learning various techniques from Miller Rothlein dancers. Additionally, field trips to professional dance performances – many students’ favorite part of the course – are exciting and eye-opening for the students, and we plan to continue these trips in the coming season.
An Exciting New Initiative.
In addition to the dance instruction, Miller Rothlein’s Producing Artistic Director Tobin Rothlein works with the students on integrating video and movement throughout the year. A focus is placed on creative expression through dance on video, and on connecting the students with other dance students and instructors through Youtube and the internet. To further the interaction with other students and the utilization of online technology, as well as to enable more students to access the course, an exciting new initiative is planned for the coming year. The project will involve spreading the program, via online educational tools, to students throughout the Philadelphia region. Students who are otherwise unable to participate in such a program would create collaborative dance and video work, interacting with the Miro instructors and their peers in both an online forum and in person. With funding for arts programs in Philadelphia public schools being drastically cut or completely eliminated, disadvantaged students often have no outlet for creative expression and a complete lack of artistic education. MIRO’s online course offers a low-cost, easily-implemented, sustainable way for schools to offer arts enrichment to their students. The program’s pilot year will be conducted with students enrolled in a specific class at a charter school in Philadelphia. An on-site teacher will facilitate the students’ participation in the online course, which will offer a digital model of MIRO’s process, mirroring the teaching in MIRO’s brick-and-mortar classroom at Girard College. Students will learn about different dance traditions, choreograph and perform their own works, and take video of themselves and their peers, which will then be uploaded into the interactive environment, edited, discussed, and worked on in a collaborative manner. Students will discover new avenues of expression and be exposed to art forms that they would not encounter otherwise. Furthermore, they will learn to use technology (video cameras, editing software, and interactive forums) in new and exciting ways. The program will provide enrichment for students that their schools simply cannot offer in their regular classrooms. After learning from the program’s pilot year, the hope is to expand it and bring it to numerous schools throughout the Philadelphia area and, potentially, beyond.