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Tuesday April 11, 2017 at 10:15am Age: 2 yrs
Category: Minisink Elementary, District


Step by step and row by row, over 400 students in grades K-2 celebrated music in our schools with folk dances, during a school assembly on April 5. In the evening, many students returned to the school with their parents to dance together.

Why folk dancing?

Folk dancing has always been about human connections, community, and the sense of belonging. In the school context, it's also an opportunity to bridge school and home. "By inviting parents to join us in the evening, we hoped to create a time free of interruptions and distractions, and get parents involved in the joy of music and dancing with their children,” said Cliff Loretto, music teacher and event organizer.

How it all came together…

All through March – Music in Our Schools Month – during music class, Mr. Loretto coached every grade, and a group of faculty and staff, in two folk dances to perform on “the big day.”

The inspiration for the event came last summer when Mr. Loretto attended the FAME (Feierabend Association for Music Education) Conference at Gordon College in Massachusetts and participated in folk dancing with hundreds of other music educators from around the country.

The dances they learned…

Mr. Loretto chose simple dances all primary students could learn. Each grade level – and the adults' group – learned one longways dance and one circle-dance:  

  • Kindergarten: “Bobolinka” and “Katyushka” 
  • First grade: “There Were Four Skaters” and “Sugar and Tea” 
  • Second grade: “Alabama Gal” and “Heel & Toe” 
  • Teachers/staff: “Circle Waltz Mixer” and “The Virginia Reel”

The challenges…

“This being a first for all of us, we faced some challenges and unknowns. We had to get close to 450 kids to perform in the gym together, and we never had a rehearsal in that space,” Mr. Loretto said. “We also had no idea how people would respond, or how many parents would register for the two evening sessions.”

Responses to the experience…

Over 200 parents signed up for the evening dance – an overwhelming response!

Some expectations and assumptions were positively countered when unsuspected students emerged as folk-dancing enthusiasts and leaders in the event’s activities.

All through March’s rehearsals in music class, first-grader Francisco Hill insisted in wearing his “fancy dancing shoes.” If he was expected to wear sneakers to gym, he ought to wear his dancing shoes to dance practice.  

Exiting the morning assembly, Francisco's classmate, Tyler Vega, was heard shouting, "You just killed it down there, Mr. Loretto! That was great!"  

Parents who participated in the evening sessions, went out of their way to express their feelings. "I just wanted to thank you again for a fantastic night! Sarafina [student] was so excited to come,” Sarafina’s mom said. “I was a bit nervous at first, but it was so much fun and laid back. You did a great job explaining everything and letting us know, 'it's okay to make mistakes – just have fun!' I’m so glad we were able to come and join in.” 

Stay tuned for MVES's 2nd Annual Folk Dancing Festival!