Dancing through the ages
Jan 15, 2020 12:46PM
● By Nichole Duffy
Cottonwood High School dance teacher Angela Garliardi Campos starts practice with encouraging words to the group. (Nichole Duffy/City Journals)
By Nichole Duffy | [email protected]
As children filed into the dance studio at Cottonwood High School on Dec. 9, words of encouragement and kindness filled the air. It was not uncommon to hear phrases like, “What’s your name, sweetheart?” and “Do you want to be my new friend?” from the teachers.
What was astonishing was that these teachers were the Cottonwood dance company students, as they checked kids into the 14th annual young dancers workshop.
It was high energy from the start, as the student teachers kicked things into gear, getting this year’s young dance enthusiasts spilt into groups according to age.
“It’s good to have the students teach the classes,” said Cottonwood’s dance teacher Angela Garliardi Campos. “It teaches them about leadership and accountability.” Campos started the workshop her first year as a dance teacher at Cottonwood. Campos is passionate about dance and all that it brings to her students.
Leadership was definitely something the students were taking seriously. With an average of 75 kids participating, it had to be top priority.
Freshman Karri Kahle was at a small table checking kids in.
“I’m all over the place, bouncing off the walls, so I can relate to them a little bit,” said Karri when asked how she manages to get the kids checked in and to the right place with such a happy demeanor.
After check-in, kids are put into groups comprised of children ages 3-6, 7-11, and 12-18, with a separate group for boys.
Training started right away. While one group worked on jumps and knee slides, another worked on helicopter arms and spins. The student teachers were there amongst them helping every step of the way, literally. Every age group averaged between five and seven student teachers, so if a dancer had difficulty, they would jump in and help them.
“It is a fun and inexpensive way to experience a dance class,” said Campos, “and they get to perform at an informal showing for family and friends.”
The fee for the three-day event is $25 and provides major fundraising for the Cottonwood dance company.
This year’s end of workshop performance follows the theme of dancing through the decades and each group is focused on their own unique decade.
Dancers age 3-6 focused on the roaring ’20s, dancing to beats that mimic the “Charleston” or the “Lindy Hop.”
Chole Barnett, who is the dance company’s president said, “Dance has taught me to be kind to everyone, we all have struggles.” It didn’t matter what the student’s age or ability, everyone was helping, with a smile on their face.
“Which is a good thing,” remarked Campos, “because the kids look up to the high school dance company members that teach the classes, it gives them something to look forward to when they are in high school.”
Kelli Brklacich, who has a daughter in the dance company — Kenna, a junior — talked about the benefits of bringing her other daughter, 5-year-old Kylee to the dance workshop. “It’s great for her to be able to spend this time looking up to her sister,” she said.
Brklacich explained another advantage the workshop has on her younger daughter. “I think it’s important because it teaches them to mingle and follow directions. Plus, it helps with coordination and it’s nice for her to get out and exercise.”
Brklacich is right about the exercise. Halfway through the practice the dancers scatter to different water fountains, with red cheeks, to take a well-deserved water break.
The 7-11 age group practiced for their performance with hits from the ’50s like “Rockin' Robin” complete with twists and jives. Asked about the advantages of learning dance at a young age, Campos said, “If you learn dance at a young age it helps you to be less shy about moving when you are older. Creative dance especially helps a child feel free and to think creatively in all aspects.”
When the dancers seemed to be losing focus, one of the student teachers stood tall at the front of the group and said, “Adagio,” an Italian dance word meaning “slowly, at ease,” which worked immediately as all the dancers looked up and repeated the word back.
The older group of kids ages 12-18 got to rock out to ’80s tunes, and their energy matched the upbeat music choice. This group was charged with excitement as they practiced more complex, longer sets of moves.
Campos says that dance is creative and expressive, and it allows people of any age to find their personal truths. The workshop is so impactful, she said, because “people that take dance class together become a community, a family.”
The boy’s group was an example of this community bonding, while they practiced some hip hop moves from the 2000’s era. Practice was full of laughter and words of encouragement from both the teachers and the dancers.
“Dance allows us to live in the moment, it allows us to grow and expand in ways that other academics cannot,” Campos said.
The end of workshop performance mashes all these groups together to give the audience a taste of the decades and to show off some of the skills they learned from their new role models.
Cottonwood dance company has found a way to fundraise while bringing the community together around dance.
“Dance not only gives kids a creative outlet, it gives them a connection to something that is bigger than themselves,” Campos said.