A flexible and dynamic instructor/facilitator, Heléna creates workshops and learning environments to address the specific needs of the learners present. Alternating between demonstration, storytelling, lecture, discussion, group movement activities and dance instruction — so as to keep engagement levels high — she employs all approaches with the spirit of collaboration, asking learners for their reactions and opinions and listening to and working with what they say.
Flamenco — For all ages, it starts with a short performance followed by asking the students what they saw, heard, or felt. Learner’s invariably pick up on the dance’s mood and their responses lead to a brief history of flamenco, giving cultural context. Clapping rhythms (palmas de compás), foot patterns, posture, hand and arm movements, as well as larger marking patterns are integrated, depending on group and time frame. It’s a dance form which lends itself well to all genders, and children, teens, and adults alike love the stomping and clapping!
Ecosystem DanceScapes — (for 4th graders, especially, although 2–6 works well) A cross-curriculum experience, incorporating movement, science, writing, and visual arts, this process includes warming up with some basic and familiar movement patterns of limbs and spine (using animals and plants as examples). Learners are asked what they know about the ecosystem in focus and fact-checking and spontaneous research is encouraged! (If a longer residency, students will do research on specific plants and/or animals and write up story boards of findings. In art classes, back drops will be painted for performance.) Movement of specific animals and plants in the ecosystem(s) is explored, and all collaborate on creating and refining the movement and movement patterns. A strength of this work is in group problem-solving and partnering to create larger creatures (moose!) which keeps students engaged and the learning cooperative. If a 4- or 5-day residency, the work culminates in a performance.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a program which spans the curriculums in the areas of history and theater, as well as movement. It incorporates performance (story-telling and dance performance) as well as both individualized movement and folk dance instruction (Dabke/Levantine line dancing). The story is from the ancient Sumerian empire and is the oldest existing text known. Heléna, having taught it in high school English classes, creates re-tellings appropriate for all audiences.