In March 2021, due to COVID restrictions, we offered an online workshop in place of the Champions for Health Youth Summit. The Jaleo Project was a 4-week flamenco dance and visual arts virtual workshop taught by artists Adrianne D. Clayton and Melinda Hedgecorth to help kids explore what happiness means in their communities.
Twenty-five Girls on the Run athletes took part, and 6 of the workshop videos were made public so anyone could learn the dance and make fans at home, at school or with their community group.
Girls on the Run coach and elementary school teacher Rebecca Perkins explained what the project meant to her and her students.
When school had to go 100% online during the pandemic, it was a challenging time for students. After nearly a year the kids were struggling with school work, with connecting to their friends, and they were missing the experience of recess. We did Girls on the Run virtually, but the kids wanted more; it was through that program that my school was partnered with KC Healthy Kids and introduced to The Jaleo Project. When we decided to do The Jaleo Project with the kids it provided a huge mental health benefit for the students. Students didn’t want to turn cameras on for school, but they did for this. The physical part was important too. It got them up and moving in a fun way. They even practiced beyond the organized times. It also supported parents, letting them see their kids doing something fun and active and happy. We heard from parents that they wanted to keep it going.
KC Healthy Kids facilitated the connection and provided a turnkey option for the schools and teachers. There was a supply drop off for the kids to be able to create their fans for the dance. Kids really appreciated that their fans were being featured in a public setting on display. The women who led it did a fantastic job working with kids on their level. They were great and calming fears and nerves. If KC Healthy Kids offered this again, my kids would sign up in a heart-beat. Especially for an in person setting. They loved it. It was so much fun!
Flamenco is a traditional style of dance in Spain. The audience often participates by yelling words of encouragement, like Olé!, to the performers. This is called jaleo, and in the workshop kids learn how jaleo is used to encourage flamenco performers, and how to recognize the ways they encourage themselves and each other.
The project culminated on the United Nations' International Day of Happiness, March 20, 2021, with a virtual celebration featuring a video dance performance.
Jaleo fans made by kids in the workshop and at Children's Mercy were displayed at the hospital March through September of 2021 and were seen by thousands of people including children, employees, pediatric specialists, volunteers, and visitors to the hospital who travel from 46 states and 17 countries. Nearly half of care provided at Children's Mercy is paid for with Medicaid and other government assistance.
The exhibit featured mini flamenco lessons, which people could access using a QR code, and KSHB-41 shared a story about it in their good news series, #WeSeeYouKC. You can see photos of the exhibit here.
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