The demonstration on Friday in the black box theater at the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance was a culmination of an after-school program at Brayton Elementary School in North Adams.
Alexis Clairmont, Meriah Delisle, Graci Garrison, Tessa Gonzalez, Yazmin Griffith and Madison Morgan finished to rousing ovation from their peers and relatives and celebrated with a pizza party hosted by Williams College.
Janine Parker, artist in residence at the '62 Center, has been working with the students twice a week teaching them not only the moves but the respect and diligence that comes with teamwork and practice.
"It was important that the program was not just about performance," she said at a practice session the week before. "I think there's a misconception with people that dance is just performance and dance is actually just like anything else that you learn, which is a study. It's a beautiful study of a beautiful art form. And it takes practice."
This course was part of the North Adams Public Schools' 21st Century after-school program, which brings children from Greylock, Colegrove Park and Brayton together for a variety of activities. Site Coordinator Noella Carlow said the program's partnerships with Williams College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts have provided the children with sessions in dance, theater, writing, music and physical education, among other offerings.
This session's dance program was a collaboration with Williams College's Dance Department, Center for Learning in Action and the '62 Center. In a previous program, college athletes had come in to work with the children and the college gave them backpacks and basketballs.
"They have just been excellent to us, and we really need partners to sustain the program," Carlow said.
Parker said the '62 Center's Randal Fippinger and Molly Polk, CLIA's outreach coordinator to the North Adams schools, had approached her about a workshop or performance at Brayton.
"So I said, well, that's great. But let's do even more than that. Let's actually go in for a long time and on a regular weekly basis and teach dance," she said. "I've been teaching dance for a really long time. I love teaching dance. And a very important thing to me is to try to bring dance to all kinds of people who may or may not have easy access to it, or who just don't know a lot about dance and never thought that they might be welcome to do so."
She was joined Williams students Joelle Troiano and Nicholas Wallach and the '62 Center provided pianist Johan Sauer and percussionist Gary Rzab.
During the practice session, the girls went through their steps, recalling the correct terms, and finished with an original dance choreographed by Parker and Troiano called "Paintin' at Brayton." Parker said it was important that deeply explore learning and "what it feels like to progress in something."
They repeated that performance on Friday to show the audience the classroom exercises and dance that they had learned. The program also featured performances by Williams students, including an improvisation by Wallach.
Alexis said she liked everything about the dance program, and thought leaping was her favorite. "I would want to do it again," she said.
Carlow thinks that more children may be interested the next time it's offered.
"I think that when they're exposed to dance and theater and all of these things, it may inspire them," she said. "I think we all become inspired by things that we do in elementary school."
Parker's been teaching dance for 30 years and said she enjoyed working with the after-school program.
"They're just as all children are — beautiful, different personalities," she said, adding that she wanted to make sure they also came away with respect for the profession and for themselves. At the end of each session, they thank their teachers and their accompanists, and are thanked in return.
"I really believe in us understanding that we respect the space that we're dancing in. They respect themselves as dancers and as learners," Parker said. "Really thanking each other at the end of the class is one of my favorite parts of this because it's so important that they know that I'm thanking them, too."
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