Updated performing arts program takes the stage

Updated performing arts program takes the stage
Posted on 12/19/2018
Saraha Michelle Black on stage with her students.Under enrichment instructor Saraha Michelle Black, Plumas Charter School’s performing arts program has expanded this year, with new classes and community partnerships rounding out offerings at the school’s three temporary Quincy locations.

Previously, Black was a physical education teacher, offering drama classes to PCS first- through sixth-graders last year. This year she has added yoga, dance, performing arts, and choir classes, in addition to expanding her offerings to kindergarten, middle school, and high school.

“My favorite aspect of working at Plumas Charter School is getting to do what I truly love, collaboratively and creatively, all while nurturing the love of learning,” said Black.

With all her students, Black said she uses “body awareness, vocal exercises, drama games, and fun to stretch the imagination, creatively think outside the box and build self-confidence.”

With older students (seventh- through 10th-graders) especially, Black observes and discusses student interests, then incorporates them into the curriculum. For example, students recently wrote their own short prose pieces, which Black combined with song, dance, drumming, and acrobatics.

Exploring the concepts of acting, singing, dancing, and other talents like acrobatic arts allows students to “observe themselves and share themselves authentically,” said Black. “They are amazing humans with talents and gifts to share—sometimes they don’t know it. So I encourage them with sincere feedback.

“I teach them to listen to themselves and slow down, to not compare themselves but to give permission to practice new ways of caring for themselves. The idea is to get them moving for physical activity, in different forms of expression. What they receive is a state of natural happiness, and research says that improves brain function.”  

The program includes a taste of the “real world” of performing arts through special outings and guest presentations: Black took students to visit Kristina’s Gymnastics; they attended a special performance of “Steel Magnolias” at the West End Theatre; Margaret Garcia, of Pachuca Productions, discussed poetry and playwriting with students; and Terry Gallagher, of Feather River College, offered a presentation on drama/theater skills.

While PCS works to build a new Quincy facility, students attend classes at three temporary downtown locations. This arrangement precipitated the formation of several valuable new community partnerships around performing arts, said Executive Director Taletha Washburn.

One such partnership is with dramaworks/West End Theatre. PCS uses the rehearsal hall next door to the theater for third- through sixth-grade performing arts class, and meetings and assemblies are held in the theater itself. Because Black is also the co-director of dramaworks, “the selection of the space was a natural fit,” said Black.
For junior high and high school classes, Black turned to her longtime friends and colleagues Jane Steidel and Averil Kimble, of the Quincy Yoga & Wellness Center, and arranged for the school to rent the studio.

“It is a perfect location (less than a 5-minute walk) and space for my students and me to work in,” said Black. “Quincy Yoga & Wellness also generously allows us to use yoga props, which gives me access to exploring the benefits of yoga with the students.”

After practicing all fall, her students of all ages recently put their skills on display during an all-ages performance at the Town Hall Theatre. Black produced the show, developing the program and creating choreography. Contributing to the performance’s success was a third community partnership: that with Plumas Arts.

“Plumas Arts has been a mainstay in the community for providing an excellent venue for large gatherings and was a great choice for our Fall Performance, with standing room only!” said Black.

“All of these partnerships in the community have been supportive, generous, and enriching of our programs at PCS,” she said. “I feel so fortunate to be working with and among these collaborating organizations, where creativity in working together helps encourage our creative arts programs to support the students and parents.”

With all the expansion Black has brought to PCS’s performing arts program, she hasn’t stopped yet. In the immediate future, she said she hopes to add singing lessons and after-school dance.

In collaboration with other PCS enrichment instructors, she hopes to offer more field trips and ways to “encourage students to integrate the arts into their lives.” Black is also involved in development of schoolwide performing arts initiatives that will include PCS’s learning centers in Indian Valley and Chester.

About Saraha Michelle Black
Black has a Bachelor of Arts degree in music, with emphasis in classical and jazz vocal performance. She also holds a yoga certification and three dance certifications.

She has been living in Plumas County for 18 years. In addition to her work with PCS, Black is the co-director of dramaworks and the founder of the dance and drum group BOOM Tribe! She also offers African-inspired dance and drum classes and private vocal coaching.

“I enjoy being on stage acting in West End Theatre productions and Pachuca Productions shows,” she said. “Currently, I am deepening my studies of song writing and sound healing. Next year, I will start with a professional acting troupe performing ritual theatre with live music in Boulder, CO.”

To learn more, visit sarahasacreddance.com, search Dance Plumas on Facebook, or email sarahamichelleblack@gmail.

PCS Quincy performing arts classes
Choir (third through sixth grade)
Drama (third through sixth grade)
Drama/dance/yoga blend (first and second grade)
Performing arts (seventh through 10th grade)
Yoga/dance (third through sixth grade and seventh through 10th grade)

Performing arts instructor Saraha Michelle Black solicits audience suggestions during Plumas Charter School’s Fall Performance while her students wait for the cues to begin their improvisation. Photo by Ingrid Burke