The arts thrive in Vancouver Public Schools, where students have opportunities to study a variety of dance styles and perform what they’ve learned at the district’s annual Dance Festival.
On April 27, students from Anderson, Chinook, Eisenhower, Felida, Franklin, Hough, Roosevelt, Sacajawea and Washington elementary schools; Thomas Jefferson and McLoughlin middle schools; and Vancouver School of Arts and Academics took the stage at VSAA for a special daytime performance.
A public performance will follow on Friday, May 11 (see sidebar).
Both events feature a wide variety of dance styles, including ballet, jazz, hip-hop, modern, Latin, folkloric and body percussion.
Ella Raines, a third grader at Sacajawea Elementary, and her class performed a South African style called gumboot dancing under the direction of dance teacher Kathleen Goss. “We have to create our own music instead of using other music,” explained Raines.
Amelia Harris, a seventh grader at McLoughlin Middle School, performed a swing dance with her peers. For her, dance is a way to explore her creative side. Said Harris, “I do writing also. The same way I can express myself through writing, I can play a character onstage [while dancing].” She added, “It helps you get focused and memorize better.”
A live performance gives students a broader context for their work, according to Felida Elementary dance teacher Sheyla Mattos, who coordinated with festival with Roosevelt Elementary dance teacher Deborah Wolf. “They see other styles, other body types, height differences. The variety of dancers and styles of dance that we get to see in the festival is really special,” Mattos said.
It’s also a confidence booster. “Some of the students are so shy at first,” said Mattos. “Then they memorize dances from beginning to end and connect musical cues and become independent. I’m always there, in front, to help if need be, but it often is the case that I don’t need to help them at all. They take over; it’s their own.”
Said Jayden Mallow, a third grader at Felida Elementary, “It felt really great, because when I looked at the crowd I saw people smiling and clapping.” He added, “This is the best experience.”