The U.S. Department of Education’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Celebrates
Access to the Arts and the 25th Anniversary of the
Americans with Disabilities Act.
On July 22, 2015 the U.S. Department of Education’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series danced into the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts celebrating the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), and the 40th anniversary of the Very Special Arts (VSA). Let’s Read! Let’s Move!, a sub initiative of the first Lady’s Let’s Move! program, aims to engage children between the ages of 3-7 in summer learning through reading and physical activity. On this day the theme of the event was “Dance is for Every Body.”
Over 140 children from various organizations, including the Beacon House, Edward C Mazique Parent Child Center, Lollipop Kids Foundation, Friendship Public Charter School, Montgomery County Public Schools, and Kingsbury Day School, filled the Grand Foyer and Opera House steps of the Kennedy Center where they learned that anyone can participate in the arts. This was especially evident through various guests and performers throughout the day.
A trio of ballerinas from the Washington Ballet @THEARC Performance Ensemble gracefully guided Secretary Duncan and his friends into the Grand Foyer. His friends included White House Executive Director of Let’s Move! Deb Eschmeyer, Surgeon General Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, Mario Rossero, Vice President of Education at the Kennedy Center, and Lawrence Carter-Long, a performer in Heidi Latsky’s critically-acclaimed GIMP dance troupe. With the ballerinas holding up large-print pages, they read a book titled Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and illustrator Guy Parker-Rees about Gerald the Giraffe who did not dance like the rest of the animals. However, he learned to dance to his own beat. Mr. Carter-Long, an internationally-recognized dancer with cerebral palsy, talked about his connection with Gerald in that they “both had wobbly knees.” He then showed off the brace on his leg. When a child asked the readers “How do you find the right music for you?” he answered, “You’ve got to listen to it and feel it inside of you.” In closing the Let’s Read! part of the event, Ms. Eschmeyer asked the children what they did for exercise, which had many shouting activities such as running, football, basketball, soccer, and dance.
Afterwards, the Surgeon General, along with the ballerinas and other guests, led the children to the Millennium Stage, where he was joined by a bhangra dance troupe, Dholi Ram. After teaching them several moves, children of all abilities joined in a mini bhangra flash mob to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.”
Continuing the Let’s Move! portion of the event, Septime Webre, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, helped the children “create a ballet” using everyday morning actions such as brushing your teeth, getting out of bed, eating your cereal, etc. Kennedy Center Dance Teaching Artists, Alison Crosby, Fred Beam, and Antoine Hunter, both of whom are deaf and used interpreters to communicate with the children, brought the event full circle by leading the children in a jungle jamboree, where, following the story they heard, they “waltzed like warthogs, rock ‘n rolled like rhinos, tangoed like lions” and most of all, learned to dance to their own beat, just like Gerald.