Archive » May 24, 2012
Dancing for joy and so much more
By SaraLloyd Truax, Staff Writer
It may look like fun – which it is – but it is also much more, proving core educational skills that too often go untaught or overlooked.
Sure, dancing at school is full of exuberance and joy, the third grade and SWAT dance teams at Santa Barbara Dance Institute (SBDI) say, but ask the teachers and administrators and they’ll tell you it is so much more.
“She always makes fun of me,” says Santa Barbara arts commissioner Ginny Brush of SBDI’s executive and artistic director, Rosalina Macisco. “I like to call it the feel good event of the year.” That event – this year titled “Imagine that!” – is the culmination of the year-long program.
The original dance/theater production was co-written by Rod Lathim and Macsico. The show’s creative team includes music producer, Michael Mortilla, voice-over artist, Katie Thatcher, and Macisco as choreographer, who founded the registered not-for-profit in 2005 with the belief that the arts have a special ability to inspire children to find excellence within.
“The purpose and mission of SBDI to help children develop discipline, a standard of excellence, and a belief in themselves that will carry over into all aspects of their lives,” she says.
SBDI programs are flexible. Depending on the school schedule, performance goals and budget, they usually last two to eight weeks, are taught on school grounds both as part of the regular school day and after-school. The SWAT program is for children who demonstrate strong enthusiasm and commitment to dance, offering more advanced choreography and additional opportunities to perform.
For third-grade teacher Julene Fenenga the most important part of the SBDI program is its ability to teach her students to work together as a team. “They learn to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves – that’s a very important lesson to learn,” she says.
Third-grade student Tessa agrees. SBDI helps teach her peers to work together – and to behave better, she says with a telling smile. “It gets all their energy out.” What she likes best, though, is the large audience to perform for.
Michael just shrugs his shoulders. “Dancing,” he says, “helps me do better at school because it makes me want to come to school.”
“It’s such a great program. We’re blessed to have it,” says Camene Haws. She says her daughter Tessa never misses a Friday dance-day at school. “She is always dressed and ready to go.”
Eleven –year-old Alexis says that because of work schedules, her mom can’t get her daughter to the afterschool off-campus programs that some friends attend. Without the mostly privately funded program Macisco brings, Alexis would miss the opportunity to dance altogether.
“I like how I get so much energy from dancing,” Alexis says. It makes her want to get up and get going to school in the morning and it keeps her charged all day after her class. She takes a deep, contemplative breath, and lets it out slowly with a broadening smile. “I don’t know what to tell you,” she says, lifting her eyebrows then popping to her feet as her class is called to perform. “It makes me happy,” she calls, running off.
Joining her on stage were 300 children from Adelante Charter, El Camino and Solvang Elementary School and special performing guests in the form of local schoolteachers, parents and community members. Mayor Helene Schneider introduced the show, along with Santa Barbara City Council member Grant House and Brush, both of whom also took to the stage to dance.
Back stage, before House can offer up his reasons why dance at school is so important, young dancer Isabella jumps up and down raising her hand and saying “it’s good because it gives us the opportunity to express ourselves.”
“That’s right,” agrees House. “She has it just right.”
For Basilio, dance is also a source of pride and exercise. He wanted to try it because his brother before him had, and he was looking forward to the chance to show off his moves to his family. He says his instructor, Miss Lauren (Macioce,) “is the best teacher I’ll ever know.”
In fact, many instructors are not only professional dancers, choreographers, musicians and composers, but are also specially trained to teach in-school educational dance programs, says Macisco. SBDI’s discipline and motivation techniques are routinely borrowed by elementary school staff.
“I am impressed and excited by the abundance of vibrant joy, self-esteem and spirit, exuded by the young dancers of SBDI. Watching them perform gives me great hope for the youth in our community. Bravo to Rosalina for her visionary leadership and talents,” says Lathim, board president of the Marjorie Luke Theater, where the performance was held.
“I love it. It’s like the best dance group ever,” says Malaysia of her classroom experience. Later, coming off stage after the final bow she is all smiles. “It was awesome. It was so much fun.” It wasn’t until she had to take off her costume and put it in the bag to be reused another day that her smile fades.
But it will take help from the community to assure there is always another day. For more information about the program and how you can help, contact SBDI at email@example.com