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Students learn firsthand about dance

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Catherine W. Idzerda
November 17, 2007
— Sharp, smooth, swinging, sustained, suspend-release, percussive, vibratory.

Those are the seven kinds of dance movements, and it turns out that young children are good at all of them.


On Friday, Thodos Dance Chicago had two “Imagine Dance” workshops at Wilson Elementary School. In the process, it might have created a troupe of small, wiggling, noisy dancers.


Thodos Dance’s appearance at Wilson was courtesy of Janesville Presents!, which is bringing the group to the Janesville Performing Arts Center tonight.


Students learned about different kinds of dance, such as ballet, modern, jazz and hip-hop. They also learned about how dancers move and express feelings.


Educational programming is a crucial part of Thodos’ work.


“It teaches children some of the tools of dance,” said Melissa Thodos, the company’s founder. “It’s like explaining what goes into a math problem, or into a story.”


Then, when students see dance on television or on stage, they can respond to it using what they’ve learned.


Of course, the best part of the program was when the kids got to dance with the professionals.


Preston Govan, 7, learned how to do hip hop squats, and he shyly demonstrated his moves in front of a critical audience of his peers. In an interview after the show, he was much more expressive about his dance skills.


“I like hip-hop and tap,” Govan said.


Does he have tap shoes or does he just fake it with sneakers?


“I fake it with my regular shoes,” Govan said.


He likes to dance to Soulja Boy, a snap music rap artist. It’s the kind of music that the kids on “American Bandstand” would have given a “10” for danceability.


Would Govan like to be a dancer?


“Yes, then I could show my own grooves to the music,” Govan said seriously.


Melissa Thodos loves to hear that kind of response.


“We’ve validated his creative abilities,” Thodos said.


Steven Nhem, 5, a kindergartner, did improvisational work with one of the dancers. They became their favorite foods: grapes and birthday cake.


Did he feel like grapes when he was dancing like grapes?


“Yup,” Nhem said.


Did he feel like birthday cake when he was birthday cake?


“No, I still felt like grapes,” Nhem said.


Well, maybe it takes years of professional training to feel like birthday cake.



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