Eastern Wake News

With dance program behind them, Wakelon Elementary students ready for performances

Wakelon Elementary School fourth graders (from left) Nayati Smith, Leylani Canales-Gomez, Magy Diamond and Joshua Wilkins join their classmates in learning a series of dance moves as part of N.C. Arts in Action’s first run at offering programs in Wake County on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. N.C. Arts in Action, based in Durham, is an affiliate of New York City-based National Dance Institute, which Jacques d’Amboise founded in 1976.
Wakelon Elementary School fourth graders (from left) Nayati Smith, Leylani Canales-Gomez, Magy Diamond and Joshua Wilkins join their classmates in learning a series of dance moves as part of N.C. Arts in Action’s first run at offering programs in Wake County on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. N.C. Arts in Action, based in Durham, is an affiliate of New York City-based National Dance Institute, which Jacques d’Amboise founded in 1976. amoody@newsobserver.com

Wakelon Elementary School fourth graders are ready to share what they’ve learned working with an arts- and dance-minded nonprofit group over the past several months.

Students will perform “Storytelling Around the World” at 1 and 6:30 p.m. at the school on Tuesday. The shows, free and open to the public, will mark the end of a 16-session in-school program put on by N.C. Arts in Action since September.

Wakelon leaders are hoping to pack the school’s gym for both sessions.

“We just want to celebrate something really amazing our kids have gotten to experience and we are really proud of them,” said Wakelon Principal Tad Sherman. “The program costs about $15,000 and the first year there was no cost to us. But in future years we will be doing the program and there will be some cost to us.

“The more we can make more people aware of the programming and what it does for our kids, the more opportunities there may be for people interested in supporting the program financially.”

The spell at Wakelon is the organization’s first in Wake County, after nine years serving Chapel Hill and Durham schools. N.C. Arts in Action workers met with students for an hour each week of the program.

The highlight of the sessions was an October visit by renowned dancer and choreographer Jacques d’Amboise, a Kennedy Center Honors recipient and 2014 Dance Hall of Fame inductee. N.C. Arts in Action, headquartered in Durham, is one of 12 nationwide affiliates of the New York City-based National Dance Institute, which d’Amboise founded in 1976.

At age 80, d’Amboise wasn’t very physically involved during his visit to Wakelon but was a dynamo of encouragement. The students bought into the positive reinforcement he offered regardless of whether they missed a step. The day was more about experiencing new things and becoming inspired to achieve more, and less about nailing dance moves.

Sherman said that kind of treatment was something many of his students might have never experienced without the program.

“It takes away any barriers that a kid can have – socio-economic status, academic ability, language, any of those barriers – and teaches the kids to work together,” Sherman said.

The performances will be a joint effort of the school’s four fourth-grade classes, composed of about 65 students.

For more information, call the school at 919-404-3844.

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