Lake Shore Students Make Connections Through Tap Dance

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By Maya Pottiger

“Toe!” Click. “Heel!” Click.

These sounds reverberated through the halls of Lake Shore Elementary School in March. The fifth-grade students prepared for their culminating tap dance performance, which was their final activity with artist-in-residence Quynn Johnson.

As an arts integration school, Lake Shore Elementary incorporates the arts into all aspects of its lessons.

“I’ve specifically brought it into the classroom before when they’re learning cyclic patterns of change and that repetition,” said fifth-grade teacher Jamie Wilder. “It brings them a different cultural experience bringing in dance that they might not be able to get outside of the classroom.”

Johnson, who visits many schools through her studio SOLE Defined, immediately recognized a difference in Lake Shore students due to their arts integration background.

“I see that they’re more ready to learn and accept the art form,” Johnson said. “There’s not that process of, ‘What is this? Why am I doing this?’ It’s like, ‘OK, we’re learning new art. Let’s go. I’m ready.’”

Johnson noticed that students were already demonstrating their retention of the tap objectives by their second lesson.

“That made me want to add more steps and challenge them even more,” Johnson said.

For one week, students spent at least 45 minutes a day with Johnson. They learned the history of tap dance, tap movements and the “ingredients of tap” — beat, choreography and improvisation.

“It allows for a deeper connection to what they’re learning and a more personal connection to what they’re learning,” Johnson said.

Wilder noticed her students making the connection immediately.

“They’re learning the words ‘rhythm’ and ‘beat’ in here, and they brought it up in the classroom,” Wilder said. “So they connected it to the math lesson we were doing.”

On the final day, the fifth-grade and first-grade classes performed the tap dance routines they learned to an audience of teachers, the kindergarteners, Principal Julie Little-McVearry and a special guest: Wilder’s mom, Patricia.

Patricia danced from ages 4 through 20, and then she became a tap instructor. Through this, her daughter also grew up tap dancing.

“It helps for them to be a little exposed to this to see how much fun it can be,” Patricia said. “I was very excited to hear they were bringing that into the schools. I wish when I went through school that they had this.”

During Johnson’s residency, Wilder noticed a difference in her students.

“They seem more excited to come to school. This is such a bright part of their day to do this,” Wilder said. “You’ll see them walking down the hallway practicing while they’re walking or practicing under their seats. It gives them something to look forward to.”

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