If you've got a kid who likes to move and groove, put on your dancing shoes and head to the Children's Museum of Manhattan for the newly opened Let's Dance exhibit.
Occupying the museum's ground-floor gallery, which briefly housed its Hello From Japan exhibition earlier this year, Let's Dance offers a vastly different museum experience for youngsters. While many recent CMOM exhibits have been chock-full of vignettes for kids to explore and experience, Let's Dance is an open-ended experience. The gallery space that was filled by busy streets of Tokyo in the spring has been transformed to an open canvas for artistic exploration in Let's Dance.
Check out and test out the latest dance moves. Photo by The Elumenati/courtesy of the museum
The gallery is bordered by different props meant to inspire children's movement and dance. The diversity of movement is on full display, whether in the photos of this year's Dance Parade, or in the Dance Portal, a domed video screen with projections of local, national, and international dancers. An interactive tablet allow kids to choose what they want to see and how they want to see it. There are clips of pros performing fully formed, polished pieces, and also examples of different dance moves with how-to videos for kids to dance along. A wide-breadth of dance partners are featured.
Try out the ballet barre.
Once kids have found the inspiration to move, there is plenty of space to do so. One corner houses studio-like mirrors and ballet barres; another corner is overflowing with sequins, tulle, and costumes so kids can dress up and really play the part.
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Pick out a costume before you perform!
The "stage," which is really just a large, taped off section of the room, truly rules the space, taking up the vast amount of the floor and wall space. While some kids bop to the beat, others can play with stage lighting, adjusting the lighting levels to achieve maximum shadows on the wall. This allows young dancers to watch their shadow-selves move through the space. More props, like butterfly wings, make this shadow-play especially fun!
Other props to inspire dance include percussion instruments where kids can strike a beat on a xylophone or drum. There are also pillows embroidered with descriptions of various dance moves, which can be lined up, read, and used to illustrate beginning choreography in a tangible form for the young audience.
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With dance, there must be music.
With so much space, and such an open-ended exhibit, the accompanying programming is key to keeping the focus on dance, and preventing the area from becoming chaotic. On the day we visited, two tutu-wearing CMOM staffers worked to keep kids engaged with songs, stories, and a parachute even came out for playtime.
Corresponding exhibit-related programming is rich and regular and brings the magic of dance to life. Weekends feature local dance groups on stage for professional performances. Thursdays offer workshops where kids can work with professional dancers to learn new moves. Both programs span the globe, again illustrating the diversity of dance, with performances highlighting the Ecuadorian, Haitian, and Mexican cultures on the calendar already, as well as styles like modern, Broadway, hip-hop, and more.
Let's Dance is open through December 2017. While you're at the museum, check out the Muslim culture exhibition or the seasonal (yet very fun!) Dynamic H20 in the backyard.
Bonus: Summer hours mean the museum is open daily, and each Monday in July features a special storytime with Miffy of Nick Jr. fame.
Top photo by Aoommie Photography/courtesy of the museum. Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of the author.