The Daniel and Michelle Larkin Family - Michelle in the News

The Saratogian 

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Dance classes teach history
CHRISTA A. PARRISH, January 19, 2000

SCHUYLERVILLE -- Third- and fourth-graders at Schuylerville Elementary School weren't playing basketball or doing sit-ups in gym class last week.

They were dancing.




Schuylerville third-grader Joey Clain dances down an alley with his father, Joseph, during Thursday night's Homespun Community Dancing program at Schuylerville Elementary School. 
ED BURKE/The Saratogian

On Tuesday and Thursday night, the students performed these traditional dances -- part of an arts residency program called Homespun Community Dancing -- before an audience of parents, teachers and community members.

The dance classes were offered to students through the Schuylerville Home School Association's Arts-in-Education program, which has brought visiting artists to the school for more than a decade. The program is completely supported through fundraisers that bring in $11,000 to $12,000 each year.

''The kids get some extra programs in the arts and culture and it doesn't cost the taxpayers anything,'' said Kim Smithgall, spokeswoman for the district.

Michelle Larkin, a parent and volunteer, has been senior co-chairwoman of the arts program for three years. Despite the time commitment involved with the fund-raising and scheduling, she said the program is very important to continue.

''It's building family, encouraging all generations to come out together and have fun,'' she added.  ''We want to encourage anything that brings people together in a positive way.'' 
The dance residency was taught by art educators from Homespun Occasions. According to Paul Rosenberg, one of the educators, the students were taught dances from many different cultures such as a Colonial American dance, an Israeli folk dance, an African American dance, and square dances -- which originated in France.

''All are old, traditional dances that go back at least 150 years,'' Rosenberg said. ''We spent a lot of time talking about life back when people had no electricity, and what they did was made their own music and danced.''

While some students, especially the boys, were reluctant in the beginning to dance, Rosenberg said that once they tried it they were won over.

Other activities sponsored by the program have included national visiting authors, educational outreach by the Troy Children's Museum and the Scotia-Glenville Museum, and a chemistry show.

''All the kids go into it saying, 'Who wants to see anything with chemistry?' then they all leave the show wanting to become chemists,'' Larkin said.