When members of the 2021-2022 Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion® Institute cohort stepped foot on to campus, it was an memorable experience. Although some individuals were joining their peers remotely, for some of the 12 individuals it was their first time on Jacob’s Pillow’s historic grounds.
Led by faculty Celeste Miller, Kimberli Boyd, and Michael Richter, the Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion® Institute is the training program for Curriculum in Motion. Co-founded by Celeste Miller and “J.R.” Glover, Curriculum in Motion® pairs choreographers with community partners or schools to investigate how dance can be used to teach curriculum or investigate a community need. On July 22 through July 27, the 12 members of the current JPCiM cohort gathered on campus and remotely for the final module in the training program.
As a teenager, when Celeste Miller started taking a creative movement class, something clicked. “From the very beginning… dance was a way for me to figure out who we are and how we can use embodied research and creativity to understand more of who we are,” she said.
The initial sparks of the Curriculum in Motion® methodology started in Miller’s high school science class. While studying atomic structure, Miller drew connections between the particles in an atom and the movement in her own body. She excitedly spent that night teaching herself atomic structure by making a dance that represented the particles inside an atom. It was around this time that Celeste landed on her mantra, “dance for Every Body.”
In 1993, a group of artists at Jacob’s Pillow gathered in the Stone Dining Room, including Celeste and fellow co-founder “J.R.” Glover. Their goal was to address how to bring Jacob’s Pillow into the community and, after a long conversation, the group landed on education. “In any community, the schools are the microcosm of the community. If you want to meet the community, you need to be in the schools,” said Celeste.
The group decided to focus on high school students, specifically the local Monument Mountain Regional High School. They wanted to look at advanced curriculum– mitosis, algebra, literary analysis– and see if one could understand their studies through dance. They set forward deriving a methodology that would connect the students with their studies through movement, later naming the method Curriculum in Motion®.
Through the years the program expanded beyond schools, eventually bringing Curriculum in Motion® into community organizations. In 2020, the artist faculty started the Institute as a means of training artists in the Curriculum in Motion® methodology. Throughout the course of the year, Institute participants, consisting of choreographers, dance artists, and dance educators, create a partnership between a school or community using the CIM methodology. Meanwhile, faculty lead the participants through five convening modules, where they facilitate conversation and raise questions for the cohort to examine.
Although the pandemic forced the Institute to operate mainly remote, this year the current cohort hoped to meet in person for their fifth and final module. Their goal came to fruition, when six of the twelve participants joined JPCiM faculty at the Pillow.
Borrowing from their own methodology, the group used creative problem solving for bumps in the road that arose. For those joining remotely, on site participants partnered with each of them to ensure they had just as an enriching experience. On site participants would speak on the phone with their peers as they walked down George Carter road or film each other dancing for group movement exercises.
At the end of their stay, the cohort held two days of presentations, where they showcased the partnerships they had developed over the course of the year. The presentations ranged from bringing dance to incarcerated women, to high school students in vulnerable communities, to basketball courts in local neighborhoods.
Regardless of the cohort’s individual partnerships, they were all joined by the common belief that is at the core of Curriculum of Motion®: Dance for Every Body.
Watch Celeste Miller in her Festival 2022 PillowTalk “Dancing the Core Curriculum”
Written by Emma Garber. Published July 2022.