Accorpamenti - Resonances between dance and music Reggio Children, 2022
Rie Algeo Gilsdorf, MS, MA, has broad experience as a principal, arts administrator, instructional coach, teacher of science and dance, and parent in many settings, including the Reggio-inspired programs of Portland’s Opal School and The Blake School in Minneapolis. Rie is a past Board Co-Chair and Civic Engagement Committee Chair of the Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota and current member of its Resource Development Committee. She now provides racial equity seminars, coaching and consulting through Embody Equity, www.EmbodyEquity.com.
As a former dance teacher and atelierista, I was excited to read this book that focuses on two of the 100 languages that I’m passionate about and have spent time studying. Its title, “Accorpamenti,” is a play on words. The word means “amalgamation” in Italian, and it contains “corpo,” meaning body, and “menti,” meaning mind. So, it’s a book that looks at amalgamations of body and mind as well as of dance and music. The volume itself is an amalgamation of documentation of various music and dance experiences with scholarly articles from the viewpoints of neurobiology, music and dance history, linguistics and culture. It physically represents theory and practice by alternating academic articles with links to video “Counterpoints” from the schools of Reggio Emilia. There’s even a video of a music and dance workshop presented to staff of several of the schools so that they could reconnect with their own ability to explore these artistic expressions. Ultimately, the goal of the book is to improve the ability of adults to develop and observe provocations using music and dance–even, or especially, for those who don’t have much experience in them.
There are moments of insight in the book, for instance this description of how children’s artistic experience is not in need of what adults think of as academic disciplines:
. . . [Children] explore the world in a way that is very similar to how an artist works, first of all in an immediate (before mediated), presentative (before representative) and sensitive (before symbolic) manner.
I wish I had had this language to help other adults understand that a dance about, for instance, teeth wiggling and falling out arose from the children’s immediate experience and was a far richer experience for them than copying some more symbolic, abstract adult ballet!
As usual, the video documentation of Reggio environments is stunning and inspirational. From babies exploring the distinct sounds of pounding hands on a wooden box and brass discs on a copper pan, to 3- and 4-year olds sculpting themselves across a nature playground, there are plenty of ideas to be had. As a dance teacher, the latter is remarkably beautiful as children play and dance freely in a bamboo forest on the grounds of the Allende Municipal Infant-toddler Centre. I admit I had a moment of envy, never having had access to a bamboo forest for my children. But, on second look, the freedom of their movement is engendered by their local environment as well as their teachers willingness to let them explore.
What is in my environment? Have I unnecessarily limited children’s exploration of it?
Much of the book’s text is written in a dense, academic style that made it challenging to read–even as a person with degrees in both biology and dance. Compounding this are instances of what seems to be poor translation, for instance, using the word “withhold” where “hold” clearly makes more sense. Other sentences never did make sense to me. And yet, there are sections, such as the discussion of the origins of rhythm, that provide insight into the body-mind connection and the ways that children use these body-based languages that can open doors to their use in early childhood programs.
Who should read this book/watch these videos?
- Dance and music teachers and teaching artists who want to deepen the Reggio-inspired aspects of their practice or to broaden their approach past a strictly disciplinary one.
- Classroom practitioners who want a better understanding of music and dance as languages of learning.
- Early childhood educators who are looking for inspiration on ways to incorporate sound and movement into their provocations.