Thursday, March 19, 2009 | Sharol Signorelli | Ridgefield Press

It's all that jazz at Scotland School

Scotland Elementary School continued its cultural education of dance curriculum by exposing its students to the evolution of jazz--a uniquely American dance form. Through lively dance performances and small group interactive workshops led by James Robey--artistic director of the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance, a non-profit dance studio--students experienced dance styles ranging from the Charleston to swing to hip-hop.

The interactive dance workshop for Scotland's young children was a three-part program. The first part was the kick-off performance where students saw entertaining and informative dances performed by high school students of the Ridgefield Contemporary Dance Ensemble, as well as professional dancers from the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance. The dances included a progression of American jazz dance styles through the decades. Mr. Robey narrated throughout the recital to teach the children about the different styles and to help them understand what to expect during the dance workshops, which was the second phase of the program.

Scotland students had a "learning-by-doing" experience during two weeks of gym classes where Mr. Robey, assisted by gym teacher Robert Sonnenstuhl and tap and hip-hop director Garrett Minniti, taught each grade a specific style of dance, while exploring the music, movement and language of jazz dance. For example, kindergartners started with the jazz of the 1920's and the Charleston. First and second graders learned jazz during the era of jive and swing, and third and fourth graders learned some moves that were popular on American Bandstand and in discos of the 70s. Fifth graders learned the current expression of jazz by moving to break dance and hip-hop styles. To help children relate better to moves they may have never seen before, Mr. Robey used familiar and popular songs such as "Beat It" by Michael Jackson and "Heartless" by Kanye West.

The final part of the three-part program consisted of the student performance for fellow students, teachers and families. Superintendent Deborah Low was also a special guest! As Principal Mark Solomon stated, "The audience neved seemed more crowded!" This final dance performance gave the students a chance to showcase their new moves and views of American jazz grade by grade and through the decades with a combination of choreographed and personalized dance steps. The high school dance ensemble and the professional dancers supported the students and wowed the audience with high-energy routines of their own. The overall experience with Mr. Robey and jazz dancing encouraged the individuality of the children and also taught them tolerance for freedom of expression through dance.

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