Fifth-graders at Midvalley Elementary have a new reason to be excited about coming to school especially on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Those are the days they leap, spin and jump with Ballet West’s educational outreach program I CAN DO.
“Stand up. Feet together. Hands by your side,” Dana Rossi, Education Associate of the Ballet West Education and Outreach Department, told a class of fifth-graders at the start of a recent I CAN DO class.
The students put their coats away and immediately stopped talking as their bodies began to stretch and sway to the disco sounds of Earth, Wind and Fire. Their regular classroom teacher, David Bettinson, moved right alongside them.
“The kids love it,” Bettinson said. “The program really focuses on confidence building, and the kids have all loved it.”
At first, some of the kids in his class were hesitant to participate in a dance program, but their attitudes changed from the first session, he says. I CAN DO, an acronym for Inspiring Children About Not Dropping Out, aims to teach students about dance and music, but it also teaches discipline, self-confidence and a love of school.
The students spend one hour a week in the program for about six months, learning about “moving, investigating, creating and connecting, as well as life skills” involved with preparing for and participating in a performance, according to the Ballet West’s description of the program. The idea is, students love the program so much it makes them look forward to coming to school to participate, and that good association carries over even after the class has concluded.
At the end of the program, all of the I CAN DO classes come together to perform a choreographed dance.
Ballet West’s program is in fifth-grade classrooms across the Wasatch Front, but this is the first year for the program to be in a Canyons District school. The program began at Midvalley Elementary in early November, and will conclude with the multi-school performance in April.