A Classical Education: Third-graders get to the pointe 030107
By ANDREA EGER Tulsa World Staff Writer
No holds barred, local youngsters leap into learning about ballet -- and
trying it out for themselves.
Ballet is now part of the artistic repertoire of Eugene Field Elementary
School third-graders, thanks to a new Tulsa Ballet outreach program.
Sponsored by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the "Leaps in Motion"
program gives students an understanding of ballet history, as well as
two weeks of dance classes taught by instructors from Tulsa Ballet's
Center for Dance Education. Third-grader Desiree Kaulaity said she had
never seen ballet dancing before her class took a field trip to Tulsa
Ballet's headquarters last month and saw junior company members perform
in costume. "I like it because I think it's like a special sport,"
Desiree said. "I like the guys picking up the girls. And I like their
music and their dresses."
Wednesday's dance lesson at Eugene Field, 2249 S. Phoenix Ave., did not
include guys picking up girls. In fact, the mostly 9-year-old boys and
girls are taught in separate rooms for good reason -- to keep teasing
and giggles to a minimum. "We find it's better that way," said Stacey
Jenkins, director of education and outreach for the center. "Especially
with the boys, we try to incorporate a sports element and explain how
ballet will help them jump higher in basketball and run faster when they
play football so they're more open to the experience."
While Desiree and the other third-grade girls warmed up by practicing
first, second and third position and pliés at a barre set up in the gym,
the boys moaned and groaned as they stretched their legs and did
push-ups and sit-ups in a classroom on the other side of the building.
"We're sounding like old men right now," instructor Stacy Christiansen
teased the boys. Jamauntae Dennis said he actually enjoyed doing
push-ups and sit-ups. "It's so we can jump high and to get our muscles
stronger. I also like when we run over her coat and do jumps," he said
of Christiansen's make-shift jumping prop. Jamauntae also said he hadn't
been able to touch his toes during the first dance lesson Monday, but by
Wednesday, it was no problem at all. "I'm glad the girls aren't with us.
Because they usually laugh at boys who got ballet," he said. Back in the
gym, the girls didn't seem to be missing their male classmates one bit.
Instructor Pam Cameron taught the girls how to chassé across the floor,
how to jeté leap over small objects and how to complete half and full
spins, all in rapid succession. "But land on your feet, not your head!"
she called out as the girls attempted their first full spins. After
multiple attempts, Tatyana Pizana tugged at the neckline of her school
spirit T-shirt to let air in, and she declared, "I'm hot!" "If you're
hot, that means you're working," Cameron said.
The 50-minute period that the ballet instructors are spending with the
students each day through March 9 will take the place of the art, music
and physical education classes they otherwise would be in at that time.
Music teacher Tammy Long said she is thrilled that her students are
getting such a unique learning opportunity -- and she was happily
surprised to see nearly every child engaged in it. "Some of them I
didn't know would be into it are really concentrating," she said. "And
some of the kids with behavior problems seem to be really doing well
with this, so it's definitely not what I expected." As Jenkins,
from the Center for Dance Education, watched students Wednesday, she
said the program's goal "is not just to give them an introduction to
ballet, but self-confidence and discipline and the other things that
come along with ballet training."
The program already has been presented at Kendall-Whittier and Celia
Clinton elementary schools this year, and Park and Skelly schools will
get it next. Students each receive three tickets for Tulsa Ballet
performances at the Performing Arts Center. Also, the Center for Dance
Education will award full scholarships for a year of ballet training to
two students at each of the five elementary schools in the program,