The ladies curtsey. The gentlemen bow.
“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.
When you have five kids, you serve a life sentence volunteering in their elementary school.
Let’s just say I took my “job” in the music department pretty seriously after a while.
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 norms and into the pride of performing as a group. To show them how the collective movement in a dance makes something much bigger than the pieces that are themselves.
Why a school district would overlook the obvious life skills involved in learning different forms of music is beyond me. It’s math, physical ed, manners, focus, self-esteem building, creative process, and team-work skills.
But it’s cleverly disguised as fun.
The students are hopping and turning 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 Chicken Dance.
What a great excuse 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 feel the rhythms and steps slowly remove 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 ever gave me and so after fifteen 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. How is this dance still living?
We do the Electric Slide, the YMCA, your basic wedding reception dances. The kids may as well have a nicely rounded education. 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 as they centipede around the room.
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 one 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 crash going under that stick, the Chihuahuas are popping under with attitude and coming up to cheers.
By the end of the school year, I was making up hula dances to Lilo and Stitch and doing Native American Rain Dances complete with ribbon wands, bongo drums and a medicine man wig.
I loved my job.