Mime-dance Creates Gales of Audible Laughter


April 23, 2008
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(Right) Maine artist Karen Montanaro leads a group of York Middle School students across a room during a recent workshop. Montanaro taught the group rudiments of mime, dance, and improvisation touching on invaluable problem-solving techniques they can use in their classrooms and within their daily lives.

YORK, Maine - Seventh-grade students skipped, climbed and moon-walked through York Middle School last Thursday, but it wasn't because of spring break - mime-dance class was in season. Visiting artist Karen Montanaro kept students' attention as she taught them how to perform mime illusions and that through effort and focus they can accomplish anything. "It's a combination of phys ed and literacy," Montanaro said, referring to the active and storytelling art of mime-dance. Smiles and screams of laughter could be heard into the hallways as students climbed up imaginary ladders and pulled on invisible ropes. "I'm glad she gave her time just to teach us," said Zach Franklin, 12.

Montanaro compared a five-watt light bulb to a laser beam as a metaphor for students. The laser is focused and can cut, while the bulb spreads its energy out and dims, she said. "She taught us to give 100 percent and not to mind what other people think," said Baily McKenna, 13. Montanaro also noted that at an early age, students learn how they can get by with only a 30 percent effort, and she views that as a limitation. "You put 100 percent of yourself into life and the magic starts happening," she said.

Montanaro has been visiting Maine schools since 2002, and is a professional ballerina and choreographer. "I love it; (it's) so much fun to see kids expressing themselves," said Beth Knight, language arts teacher. "A favorite part was when she taught us mime - grabbing a pole and climbing a ladder," said student Heidi McCarthy. According to art teacher Sadie Shaffer, the Maine Arts Commission funds Montanaro to go around to Maine schools and perform. "It was absolutely wonderful to watch and she does amazing things with the kids," Shaffer said.

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