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P.S. 105 Students Dance To Stories

The dancing was wild at the end-of-the-year dance recital for the National Dance Institute students Friday, June 11, in the P.S. 105 auditorium. The students, teachers and parents that came to the show danced on the stage, danced in the aisles and danced in their seats. The students in the class even danced in the playground outside the auditorium and in the halls as they waited to go on stage.

The show featured about 240 students who had been practicing all year for a chance to show off their moves to parents and other students. The entire fourth-grade class and about 40 fifth-grader in advanced dance classes performed in the show, which featured dance routines that went along with spoken poems and stories like “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein and “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss. The stories were put to original songs and performed live, with live renditions of soul tunes as well like “Signed Sealed Delivered” by Stevie Wonder and “Superfreak” by Rick James played in between.

For the past six years the NDI has been teaching dance classes at P.S. 105 with a different theme each year. This year’s show focused on storytelling and is aimed at achieving the school’s motto of “teaching students more than just the three Rs” principal Christopher Eustace said.

“This helps us to teach the whole child. Certainly literacy and math are important, but the arts are very important as well,” he said. “The dance program taps into the interest of the students, so it’s very important.”

Unlike several other dance programs taught at the school, the dance program with the NDI is not funded through a special grant, but is funded entirely by the school, Eustace said. Since starting, the program has grown from teaching one fourth-grade class to teaching dance to the entire fourth-grade class and also to the fifth-graders that are enrolled in the advanced program, known as SWAT, which stands for Scholarships for the Willing, Achieving and Talented.

“They are chosen for their enthusiasm, ability and general amazingness,” Aileen Barry, program director of National Dance Institute, said. Her group, which consists of six teachers and two musicians, teaches about 4,000 students a year at 30 schools throughout the city. “We use dance and the arts as a way to teach children about excellence, about being their best and performing their best and ignite a curiosity about the world.”

Fifth-grader Trevor Clarke said he’s been dancing for a year because he felt it could teach him a lot about the world. ”Sometimes we can express how you feel by moving. When I was in fourth-grade I wanted to have experiences of what it’s like to be in front of people, and it’s exciting,” he said. “You get to see a lot of new things and meet new people and have a lot of experiences.”

Dianna Diaz, a fifth-grader, said dancing is her passion and she plans to dance for as long as she can. “My mom says it’s a gift and I believe it,” she said.

The classes will be performing their storytelling routines at LaGuardia High School Concert Hall from June 19 through 21.

Reach reporter Max Mitchell at (718) 742-3994 or mmitchell@cnglocal.com

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