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Students catch a little dance fever

April E. Clark

Radio speakers blare a techno-dance version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” while a shaggy-haired fifth-grade boy with baggy jeans and T-shirt leaps across the carpeted gym floor.”Fame” this is not.On this particular winter morning at Sopris Elementary School, an energetic class of 10-year-old boys and girls aren’t trying out for the lead of a major musical. They are rehearsing for “Moments, an Evening of Dance,” a performance at 7 p.m. Saturday at Glenwood Springs High School. The show concludes a week-long residency by the High Performance Dance Theatre professional dance company.”This gives kids exposure to dance, as well as the opportunity to dance themselves,” said dancer and choreographer Teri English, who grew up in Carbondale, and lives and teaches for High Performance in Fort Collins. “By teaching dance at the elementary school level, you squelch that stigma associated with it.”English and colleague Kim Lang Carter taught kindergarten through fifth-grade students during their regular music and physical education classes this week. The dark-haired dancing duo has taught in Roaring Fork Valley school districts for nine years, and at SES for the past three. “Every year is special,” English said. “We received an e-mail from a woman whose granddaughter came back to school this week and said school is ‘fabulous.’ When the grandmother asked why it’s ‘fabulous,’ she replied, ‘Don’t you know? It’s dance residency week!’ What we’re doing here, we know it’s valuable and the kids enjoy it.” SES’s Parents in Education and grants from the Colorado Council on the Arts and KN for Kids funds the dance residency program. Lang Carter, artistic director of High Performance, and Ann English, district dance residency director and Teri’s mother, secured the state grant to also allow for two dance residency programs at Basalt Middle School last November.”Dance is a natural means of learning for young children. It also enhances learning in other core subjects,” Ann said. “Dance is a medium of nonverbal communication and increases understanding of verbal communication. The performing arts are an important part of total education.”Music teacher Lorie Courier supports the dance residency program and feels that it strengthens the elementary school’s music curriculum.”One of the real advantages of the residency is that it is so creative and energetic,” she said. “There’s so much self-expression, and there’s no rigidity, like you have to put your foot here. These are skills they can take with them their whole lives.”For Saturday night’s student portion of the show, “Moments from The Wizard of Oz,” teachers have volunteered to be the main characters, while the kids will play flying monkeys, jitterbugs, munchkins, Ozians, and lions, tigers and bears.”I’ve volunteered to be the Wicked Witch of the West,” Courier said. “And Mr. Courier (the PE teacher) will be the Tin Man. Performing arts really unleash our human potential.”Maybe the SES dance residency program will uncover the next Fred Astaire, John Travolta or Usher. Only the Great Oz will tell.Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. 518, aclark@postindependent.com


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