This article is published through our Regional Reporter Program. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts through the Digital Now initiative.
Lynn Panting, a St. John’s-based dance and theatre artist, continues making dance accessible to all with the release of her first children’s book, We Dance High, Low, Fast & Slow. The concise, instructive text by Panting and action-oriented illustrations by Jessie Meyer allow readers to experience a creative movement class.
In a pandemic-fuelled desire to find more ways to share dance with all populations without the constraints of a stage or studio, Panting began writing and planning. After two years of work, the book launched on Oct. 22 with a celebration at her studio, Lynn Panting Dance.
Panting is acutely aware of the barriers to learning dance. Sharing exercises from her Wee Dances class through this book provides a low-entry cost option to get young people moving. Her experiences with public libraries and children’s literature, and an awareness of the limitations of video resources, such as in rural Labrador where people don’t have adequate internet access, inspired this intention.
“[This book] was born out of some reshaping during the lockdowns and other conversations that I’ve been having around accessibility and who gets to dance and how we bring dance to people in different media,” said Panting.
Unlike other children’s books about dance that are story-driven, Panting describes We Dance High, Low, Fast & Slow as reader-centred.
“It’s not narrative, it’s interactive,” she said. “It was less of a creative writing mission and more ‘How can I clearly articulate what I do in a class?’ ”
The illustrations, coloured predominantly in blue punctuated with browns and pinks, feature a broad range of dancers exploring instructions like wiggle, freeze and relax alongside accompanying images of animals, props, toys and landscapes that give young readers multiple ways to connect with the actions.
“It’s a great opportunity for families to be interactive at storytime. It’s really a non-intimidating introduction to creative movement,” said Panting.
This is echoed by Jessicah Blanchard, a Corner Brook, N.L.-based dance teacher and parent of five-year-old twins, who read the book with her family.
“I liked the simple language the kids could easily understand,” said Blanchard. “Without me telling them to, they immediately stood up and started moving/dancing to the words as I read them.”
And her children enjoyed it as well.
“I liked dancing all the things,” said five-year-old Ezra.
“I really love all the pictures and dancing to the words. It’s silly!” said his twin sister, Harper.
The book is available to order on lynnpantingdance.com along with an audio book version read by the author and colouring pages.
Reflecting on this concrete way of bringing dance to children and families, Panting said: “My work is usually so ephemeral, in dance and theatre.… So I really had a lot of emotions when I could hold the product in my hand. It’s a different experience for an artist, I think.”
And as for the practicality of this tangible, written dance lesson, Blanchard said: “Once we were finished reading, [the kids] asked if we could start over!”
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