The beats have been strong and the rhythms driving at Erwine Intermediate School over the past few weeks thanks to a new program called Dance It Up.
The program is the result of a conversation between Turkeyfoot Elementary School principal Tim Bryan was approached by former Coventry teacher Patti Freeder with a suggestion to get students more involved outside the classroom.
Bryan responded with a simple challenge.
"We started out at Turkeyfoot and I said to the principal, 'Let's get a program for everybody going' and he said, 'You find it,' and so i did," Freeder said.
That exchange spawned Dance It Up, an after-school hip-hop dance program in the district taught by instructor Shananne Lewis. The purpose of Dance It Up is to promote exercise, learning and the enjoyment of dance to the third, fourth and fifth graders at Turkeyfoot. Freeder approached Lewis about working together on the program after seeing Lewis teach her granddaughter at a dance class.
"The minute I saw her teach 4 year olds how to dance, she got those kids to just do terrific dancing and I knew she'd be great in the public schools," Freeder said.
The most recent edition of the program finished its five-week run right before students began their holiday break. After five weeks of practicing and rehearsals, the 34 students in the program put on a special performance in the Erwine cafeteria for their friends and family members.
The group performed several different hip-hop dances, several of which had a holiday theme. Clad in specially made t-shirts, the students executed steps they learned from Lewis during their one-hour practice sessions after school on Wednesdays. According to Freeder, the students enjoy learning the dance steps because Lewis has a unique way of teaching them.
"She has a name for every single step she does," Freeder said with a laugh.
Aroara Sayre and Alexis Lower, two fifth graders in the program, decided to participate because they wanted to find an activity to do together while also having fun. Both are members of the cheerleading program and thought dancing would be a fun extension of what they do as cheerleaders. Both said they would recommend Dance It Up to other students.
"They should try it because it's a lot of fun," Sayre said.
In addition to the five-week program at Erwine, Freeder and Lewis also teach a similar program at Turkeyfoot Elementary. The only difference between the two, Freeder noted with a laugh, is that fewer boys are willing to come out for the program at Erwine. Erwine principal Donald Schenz has seen Dance It Up make a positive impact at Erwine and is excited to see where it will go in the future.
"The program has had a wonderful impact on our students who participated. It has allowed them an extremely positive outlet for their creative energy that often times can be difficult to put out during the school day," Schenz said. "We have seen so many wonderful social interactions from the students as well. They have, not only learned about dancing, but great life lessons about character, behavior and positive attitudes."
Page 2 of 2 - The Turkeyfoot incarnation of Dance it up will return in the spring and both Freeder and Lewis hope to have Erwine students busting a move again in the near future.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8396 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB