“Everybody forward and back!” A banjo picks up the Virginia Reel that will take our class on to new heights of social cooperation and gender tolerance. If you can get a fifth-grade boy to take a fifth-grade girl’s hand for even that one small moment of sashay, you have achieved a major accomplishment. My goal: to carry these kids beyond the worry of social graces and into the pride of performing athletic graceful movements that flow with the music. To show them how the collective movement in a dance makes something much bigger than the pieces that are themselves.
Oh yeah…and to have a really fun time!
I volunteered for many years in my children’s elementary school, most of the time teaching music related lessons, kindergarten through fifth grade. It is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I have a lot of stories to share, but today…I just want to dance!
The students are hopping and turning now around large straw hats on the floor. We are dancing the Mexican Hat Dance. The hat provides a buffer between rowdy partners that will fail altogether once we start the music for the Chicken Dance. It’s so much fun to have a reason to move in the middle of a highly structured day. As the lessons progress, the random sillies and day’s frustrations make way for body awareness and timing. They begin to realize that the rhythms and steps are removing tension from mind and body. And they like it!
Buffalo Gals is the next step up towards square dancing. Only it’s in a circle. A wagon wheel actually. The Virginia Reel is square dancing in two lines. Someday I would like to graduate to actually dancing in a square. It takes more practice than the teacher’s schedule gave me and so in 15 years I still don’t know how to do it. But give me the chorus to Buffalo Gals and our kids will rock that wagon wheel.
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOhhhhh Macarena. Seriously. We do the Electric Slide, the YMCA, your basic wedding reception dances. The kids may as well have a nicely rounded education. These are life skills. If you can’t form a Conga line you are missing out. We hold onto the person in front of us by the shoulders, not the waist, and I’m lucky they aren’t pulling shirts off backs. Thankfully, the Bunny Hop allows for more individuality. I try to have them make baby bunny hops, not giant rabbit from hell hops. It doesn’t always sink in.
Here’s another favorite of mine: the Limbo Rock. You dance it at luaus and who in So Cal is not going at some point in his life to one of those birthday parties? I love this because it is the great equalizer dance. You have the line backers, the track stars, the class jocks who are way too cool to take these dances seriously. Then you have the little guys. The computer techies, the quiet fellows who are taking this all in and thinking somewhere in the back of their minds, “I am so finally going to impress a girl!” And you are SO rooting for them! The Limbo is their shining moment. As the Great Danes fall going under that stick, the Chihuahuas are popping under with attitude and coming up to cheers.
I love my job.