Alumni: Kei Ikeda
Hello, my name is Kei Ikeda and I am an AMI 6-12 guide and the founder of Montessori Dance. I have over 10 years experience as a Montessori guide, working predominantly with 6-9 year old children. I absolutely love working with children in the Second Plane of development as they are so curious about everything! The excitement and enthusiasm that comes out of the children as they explore their interests is such a delight to behold! Seeing the children creatively connect with their learning is the most rewarding and also my favourite part of the role of guiding children.
In addition to my Montessori work I also have a background in dance. I started learning ballet around the age of 8 and completely fell in love with it. My passion for ballet continued into my adolescence and I went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and a Bachelor of Education at the University of New South Wales. I had my passion for dance and I knew I liked connecting with children. It was through my dear mentor from university, a choreographer whose child attended a Montessori preschool, that I came across Montessori education.
When I heard about the Montessori approach to learning I was immediately intrigued as I thought it was an education approach that would have helped me develop into a more confident dancer. The skills children practise and hone in a Montessori environment like following one’s interests, choice making, collaborating with others and connecting intimately to the world, seemed to support the development of a person who is connected to one’s own sense of self as well as to the world around them. Such qualities are needed as a dance artist and life in general. I was so lost when I left university; unsure of what my purpose was in life. Montessori education seemed the perfect antidote to the situation in which I found myself.
After completing my studies I went on to engage in some work as a dance artist while also working with children in the after school care setting. I eventually followed my interest into the world of Montessori education and was incredibly fortunate to find a position as an assistant teacher at Montessori East in Bondi. The school was incredibly generous and offered to support me through the AMI 6-12 teacher training.
While working with the children at Montessori East, I could not help but see how well Montessori education and dance fit together. The children were accustomed to learning through exploration so it was a no-brainer for me to start introducing children to dance through guided improvisation activities. This is rather funny because one of the most challenging things I found through my engagement with contemporary dance was the aspect of improvisation and there I was starting with improvisation with the children! A secure sense of self from which to explore, experiment, problem solve and collaborate, all qualities which I believe are nurtured by the Montessori approach to education, supports one to engage with improvisation and to express oneself through movement.
It was incredible to witness the movement explorations and dance phrases the children created through the process of improvisation and composition. The children explored the elements of dance (space, time, dynamics, relationships) with an open mind and created short movement phrases in response to artworks, music, geometric concepts like line and shape…there was even a group of children who created a dance about pandas as part of their research project on pandas. Dance became available as an avenue through which the children could do follow up work, explore their interests and express themselves. The number of ways children can explore concepts in all learning areas through the medium of dance is infinite!
‘…it is only by movement that the personality can express itself’
- Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p.137
Since leaving my role as a lead guide, I have been directing my focus on offering dance and movement exploration to more children and to empower the adults to integrate dance into the daily life of the Montessori environment. The key message I want to get across is that dance is for everyone, not just for the select few who are highly trained. This is how Montessori Dance came about and the workshops for educators and children are designed to bring this vision possible for anyone.
The approach to dance I am suggesting is quite different to that of a traditional dance class. It is focused on guiding children to explore ideas, feelings and concepts through movement which involves the children generating the movement phrases themselves. It is reimagining dance in a way that aligns with the Montessori approach where we acknowledge the child as an explorer, capable of creating and learning through their own explorations.
Through such a reimagined approach to dance, children engage with and develop skills and values such as:
- Decision making
- Problem solving
- Divergent thinking
- Spatial awareness
- Motor planning
- Kinesthetic awareness
The adult can offer guidance, suggestions and stimuli to invite the movement exploration but there is no need for the adult to create any dance steps to be memorised and perfected.
Engagement with dance and creative movement exploration can be offered in the same way as any other area of exploration available to the child. The adult can plant the seeds of interest, offer the tools which, in the case of dance, is the language with which to explore and think about aspects of space, time, dynamics and to offer compositional tools that can bring structure and order to their exploration.
Dance is a human experience, a form of expression that has been around over the course of human history. It offers opportunities for children and adults to experience:
- Sense of community
- Connection to self, others and the space around them
- Sense of achievement
The adult doesn’t need any previous dance experience. What is needed is an open mind, curiosity and perhaps a dose of courage to bring dance and movement exploration into the classroom. I invite all educators to reimagine dance and come along this journey.
I look forward to welcoming educators and children on their path to integrating creative movement exploration into their daily lives.