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Rainbow Etude

Donald McKayle’s masterwork, Rainbow Round My Shoulder, is acclaimed as a modern dance classic. A searing dramatic narrative, it is set on a chain gang in the American south where prisoners work, breaking rock from “can see to can’t see.” Their aspirations for freedom come in the guise of a woman, first as a vision then as a remembered sweetheart, mother, and wife. The dance is set to a series of recorded work songs, and dramatizes the plight of a southern chain gang toiling in frustration.  The songs that accompany the dancers arduous labor are rich in polyphony and tell a bitter, sardonic, and tragic story. The dancers back muscles flex in unison and their bare feet slam the floor.

The Rainbow Etude reconstruction project, funded by UNCG School of Visual and Performing Arts and Greensboro Arts in Education grant, brought together members of the North Carolina Dance community, including University dance education students, professional dance teachers, High School students.  Profound and lasting relationships among educators and preservice educators as well as compassionate camaraderie between HS students and UNCG students was established.

Significant practicum mentorship and dynamic instruction grew and evolved over the year-long research project. Data was collected, looking critically at instructional pedagogy, tracking participant learning modalities, professionalism, motivation and personal connections to the choreography and the curricula. Rainbow Etude was performed in numerous venues including UNCG’s iDance company performances in the public schools as well as at state and national conference in 2014-2016. An ideal partnership between community, university celebrating the American Dance Legacy Repertory Etudes vision of encouraging dancers to voice their own thoughts or emotional reactions as they embody the work.

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