Dancing Sirtaki in English class

”So, there you guys just kept sitting at the table, laughing and taking pictures of us. But now it’s time for all of us to learn that Greek dance. So, everybody, get up on your feet NOW!”

It is Friday afternoon on Porvoo Campus, the last lesson of the week for everybody. A session of oral presentations related to a field trip to Rhodes is about to end and the last group is asking the audience to join them in a traditional Sirtaki dance. I feel tremendous joy and happiness. I have travelled a long way to reach this point where my students are taking over the movement part in class.  For years I have more or less successfully urged students to move in my English classes.  Reactions have varied from positive curiosity to absolute horror: “This is not how you study Business English at a university of applied sciences”, I was occasionally told in student feedback. However, with my background as professional dance teacher I am a firm believer in the benefits of kinesthetic activities in any type of studies. You simply cannot have students sitting for eight hours in a static position. Recently I have started coming across similar thoughts from various official instances: Finnish university students are sitting too much! Something should be done to enhance more mobility in university pedagogy.

Moving to Povoo Campus in spring 2011 was a turning point for my kinesthetic approach to learning. Students and I rushed out to explore the wonderful space in workshops called Tiloja/Avaruuksia (Species of Spaces). We ran and climbed, we discovered the building blindfolded and we relaxed in the fatboy chairs to the soothing sounds of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel.  Not a single English lesson would start without breathing exercises and some stretching and walking. As said by us dancers: “The space is seen through the skin. The skin has eyes”

On that Friday afternoon in mid-October I could have just lied back in the fatboy chair and watched the result of my work. However, I choose to jump up and join the Sirtaki. And we are all moving in the same direction, in escalating tempo. And we are laughing as we have never laughed before. And at the end we wish each other a nice weekend. Happy, content and embodied.

Never before have I felt as home on Porvoo Campus.

About Pia Kiviaho-Kallio

Dancing English Teacher holds an MA in English Philology and is a certified dance teacher. She takes interest in introducing dance and movement improvisation into vocational business studies. Dance is a shortcut to embodiment, kinesthetic awareness and efficient team work. Thus, business students benefit from dance and movement studies.
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