The fifth and sixth grade classes of Theodore Roosevelt School showed off their fancy footwork on Tuesday, May 5, during their celebration of “One World – Many Dances,” the end-of-the-year performance of the school’s cultural arts program.
During the school year, the students learned types of dances from around the world, from previous favorites such as American square dancing and the Philippine tinkling dance to new routines in Chinese Tai Chi ribbon dancing and acrobatic Ukrainian Dancing.
“I thought it was excellent,” said audience member Jimmy Dalton. “I love the togetherness and the smiles on the kids’ faces.”
“I loved it; it was such a pleasure to watch the children perform,” said Alma Martir, another audience member. “They are amazing, and to see all the different cultures up there brings joy to my heart.”
Working with Arts Horizons
The cultural arts program has been going on at Roosevelt School for over 15 years, with the annual end-of-the-year performance held at the beginning of May.
For the last few years, they have worked with Arts Horizons, an education organization that offers innovative arts programs for schools in the metropolitan area. Roosevelt School’s dance program has been run with the help of an artist in residence from Arts Horizons, Suzi Myers.
“We threw in a couple of new dances we haven’t done before, and working with a whole new crop of fifth graders,” said Myers.
Among some of the new dances featured in the program was a Mexican masked dance that celebrates the “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead).
“We had done other dances for Mexico before,” said Myers. “This involved a lot more physical acting as opposed to just dance. I like to give them little challenges.”
“I thought it was great,” said Margaret Lorenz. “My daughter was in the sixth grade Mexican Dance ‘Dia de los Muertos,’ and they have been working for months. It’s exciting and they did such a good show.”
Learning through dance
The dancing art component is tied into the class curriculum. As the students learn the dances, they also learn about the history and geography of that country, which they explain before their performance.
“The teachers get very involved once the students get assigned their country in January, and share more information about the country with the students,” said Myers.
This year the setting for the performance was a neighborhood soda shop, which was built on the auditorium stage at Weehawken High School. After each class performed their dance, all the classes joined together for one final merengue dance number.
“At first I was nervous, but once we got to the merengue I was okay,” said Cindy Penafil, 11, in fifth grade. “The best part was spending [the time] with my friends having fun, and learning about the Irish culture is very fun.”
“I’m very excited,” said Amber Metayer, 11, 6th grade, who performed in the China dance. “It’s a nice experience to learn the different dances from different cultures.
Jessica Rosero may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org