Beauty shows itself in many ways. It emanates from generosity. It dances amongst us when we grace one another with kindness, respect, and love. It quietly lands when we allow ourselves to stop and listen to the world around us. And the spirit of beauty shines when diverse cultures come together in open communication for a shared experience.
This week Kim Weild and Alexandria Wailes shared the multicolored hues of beauty with our first graders as part of my Broadway Books First Class reading series.
Their visit was reminiscent of the comforts of home - safe, welcoming and familiar - while simultaneously heralding an enchanting aura of excitement and expectation.
This was our first visit by two performers. Kim and Alexandria are both trained performers and dancers as well as directors. Kim was most recently the Associate Director on the incredibly moving Amazing Grace the Musical on Broadway. Alexandria is currently appearing in Deaf West Theater's Broadway revival of Spring Awakening!
This was also the first visit from a deaf performer so the interactive question/answer reading of Beautiful Hands was conducted primarily in American Sign Language. I created a PowerPoint of the book to lend a visual component to the reading and Kim and Alexandria lovingly guided the children through the text.
"What will your beautiful hands do today?"
The story elicits responses from the children to skillfully steer them to reflect beyond surface-level musings. Our beautiful hands can lift spirits, plant ideas and touch hearts (as well as lift boxes, plant trees and touch kittens).
The theme of the afternoon played with the idea of cooperation in creating something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Kim and Alexandria expounded on the role of a director or choreographer to pull all of the individual pieces together to execute a vision. Kim taught us that a director's role is to not only choose the play and the actors but also to work with the set designer, the costumer and choreographer to build a new world that did not exist previously and will never live again in exactly the same way. Directors help manifest dreams.
The dream starts with a vision and everyone pulls together to make it real. For example, "How does a heart look? Move?" All voices, all input is considered with the director or choreographer listening and weaving it together.
There are correlations to the work of a teacher in the classroom. Students have value. Their voices are considered. They determine the dream, the environment, the path of instruction. They inform us but it is the teacher's role to facilitate the learning. Alexandria made this explicit for the students when she shared "Every day we meet with the director, the choreographer, the other actors and we focus on one moment. Then we practice it over and over again until it's perfect and we move on. So, when you are at school all day you practice your fingerspelling, you practice your signing, your math, your learning. It's the same thing. In a show we practice as well. There is lots of focus and commitment and we improve. There's a lot of teamwork and agreement that goes on and a lot of happiness".
The visit ended with gifts. We gave copies of Beautiful Hands by Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten, signed by each child, to Kim and Alexandria.
Then the spirit of love could no longer be held at bay because they were both soon lost beneath a hug pile of gratitude.
My heart was right there amongst them, expressing thanks for gifting us with their time and attention.
We all learned so much through their Beautiful Hands.
Kim Weild and Alexandria Wailes sharing their "Beautiful Hands"
Broadway Books First Class