Grant to cover many educational areas

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 24, 2004

By SUE ELLEN ROSS – Staff Reporter

EDGARD – Students at West St. John Elementary School are broadening their horizons, thanks to a grant from the Houma-Terrebone Arts & Humanities Council.

Learning about faraway countries, their customs and language, is the focus of the grant, according to Sandra Horne, curriculum coordinator. “Our principal, Audrey Sylvain, and I were discussing student programs,” she said. “At that time, she mentioned that she would like the students to learn about foreign countries and their dance music.”

Horne and Sylvain applied for the $4,966 grant last summer, and won the award in October 2003. Horne then contacted the Young Audiences Booking Agency, looking for an appropriate avenue to begin utilizing the grant. They suggested The Komenko Dance Group from New Orleans.

The entertainers were scheduled to visit the school to introduce traditional dances of European and Asian countries. The first event of the project, Dances Around the World, took place March 19 in the school gymnasium.

Dancers Cheryl O’Sullivan, Daniel Gianfala, and John Rodi, kept the audience mesmerized as they moved to the beat of the music, changing into appropriate costumes as each dance number changed.

Audience interaction was an important part of the presentation.

Before the dancers appeared on stage, Rodi took a drum into the audience, giving some of the students an opportunity to play with it, as he explained the fine art of drum-beating.

Once the program began, Rodi preceded each dance number with a short lesson of each country’s musical traditions.

“The distinct musical background from each country is usually accompanied by shouts of certain words,” he said. In turn, he taught the students those words, so they could participate when the dance routines began.

Also during the program, volunteers from the audience came on stage to accompany the music leaders.

School Secretary Felicia Williams stopped in to watch the show. “One of the benefits of this program is the opportunity for students to learn about creative dancing,” she said.

The unique grant definitely does allow for multiple student benefits.

The Komenko Dance Group will return to the school to give dance lessons to selected students. Groups of 25 will participate, attending instruction twice a week for six weeks.

In addition, they will design their own costumes and present their new dance skills at the school’s athletic banquet this spring, according to Horne.

Material has been purchased for the costumes, and students will make props for their presentation.

“This is just the beginning of involvement for the children,” Horne said. “They also will learn social studies, as well as have the opportunity to showcase their newfound talents.”