Dance Painting East West Childcare and Kindergarten, Fitzroy

‘…we are intertwined in things; ourselves are caught up in the fabric of the world; our understanding is inseparable from the body and its Senses.’

– Polly Ullrich, Workmanship: The Hand and Body as Perceptual Tools

It’s a tranquil and sunny Friday afternoon at East West Child Care and Kindergarten, Fitzroy. Tucked behind the hum of the city streets, this tiny oasis is brimming with creativity. Today the kindergarten children are abuzz as they prepare for one of their favourite activities: Dance Painting.

Dance Painting is a unique form of play-based artistic expression invented by the Children of East West and facilitated by one of their educator’s, Ruth Harper. It started organically, with a child requesting to dance and paint at the same time. Since then Dance Painting has evolved, under the guidance of Ruth, into a fun, regular activity rich in social, emotional and cognitive learning.

What is Dance Painting? It’s a cooperative form of action painting performed to music. Action painting is the energetic, gestural style of mark-making made famous by mid-twentieth century artists such as, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Characteristic to both action painting and Dance Painting is the physical act of painting is an essential part of the finished work. At East West the children groove to the music while they paint. Their brushstrokes are intuitive and expressive in response to the music, and each other.

Ruth decided to forgo the paper on the day we visited

At East West the garden is filled with R&B, funk, and Justin Timberlake. This music is the cue to start painting. The children are ‘scientists’ as they mix paint to create new colours. They share their canvas - a length of paper that snakes around the building – and approach it with loaded brushes and a sense of curiosity. Some children paint independently, others create together. I see one child paint zig zags to the beat of the music, while another abandons her paintbrush and squeezes the tube directly on to the paper. One girl uses her hand to smear paint, now she has ‘artist’s hands’.

Getting some production help from the crew

Throughout Dance Painting the role of the educator is to facilitate learning. This is achieved through neutrality, and inquiry-based questioning techniques. Neutral language helps to reduce the educator’s influence over the learner, and posing questions that scaffold ‘searching’ keep the learner focused on their inquiry.

“...One girl uses her hand to smear paint, now she has ‘artist’s hands’.”

The duration for Dance Painting is 40-60 uninterrupted minutes. Kindergarten children are given the first opportunity to paint, after this younger children are invited to join in. It’s important that the activity is a staged approach, as congestion causes mayhem and each child needs the physical and cognitive space to create.

Renee Ferris

-Art Educator & Zart Student Gallery Curator


Zart Art