Kapa’a students learn about roots of African dance

KAPA’A — Reggae. Rap. Break dance.

Students at Kapa’a Elementary School had little trouble tary associating with these popular styles of song and dance, expressing their awareness through enthusiastic applause Monday.

Kimberly Gladysz of Dance Africa Live threw these questions out as a prelude to their tions special performance for the school.

Gladysz, a part-time reading instructor at Kapa’a Elementary, explained to the students tary, that they would be performing songs and dances from West Africa.

These celebrate the roots of the popular forms known by the students.

“As we know, we learn and understand material more when we have an experience that touches us on many levels,” Gladysz pointed out in a brochure she used when doing similar presentations in Virginia, where she came from.

Drawing on the talents of Sky Van Horn, Melody Harringer, Rachel Kattlove, and Leora Brown, Gladysz brought the performance to students at the elementary school with the help of Dan Spriggs.

“Black History Month was big in Michigan, where I came from,” Spriggs pointed out. “I was surprised that there is little done here, so I’m glad that the students had a chance to experience this group.” Spriggs said he’s corresponded with teachers from Michigan who will be sending him material they use in their classrooms as part of the educational program for Black History Month, celebrated each February.

Gladysz said that all of the “performers” for Dance Africa studied together, although not all at the same place, but coming together here.

The pulse of the drum played by Van Horn caught the students’ attention as it subtly sang its song while the group members took their places in the cafeteria.

Throughout the performance, the drum, Van Horn’s being joined by the drum voices brought forth by Harringer and Kattlove, riveted the students’ attention.

The drum voices echoed throughout the morning performance in the school’s cafeteria, stopping only to provide Gladysz and Kattlove a window for explaining the dances.

This attentiveness was broken only by light-hearted laughter as Gladysz stopped their group presentation to pull students out of the audience for an interactive dance, one being a dance about the jungle when Kattlove paid tribute to a dance teacher from the Congo.

Another featured the teachers themselves joining the Dance Africa Live ensemble members for a light-hearted party dance, the students sending shouts of “cuckoo, cuckoo,” echoing through the cafeteria.

Monday’s performance drew many elements from the brochure Gladysz worked with in Virginia, where students were immersed in an atmosphere of authentic West African music, fabrics, and instruments.

As in ancient African tradition, there is the storytelling element, while through the interactive dance, students learn about the music, stories, and rhythms of African music.

Spriggs noted that this was Gladysz’s first performance with the group here on Kaua’i.

He is hopeful that more people would be able to utilize the talents of the group to learn and experience some of the culture of West Africa.

Black History Month has been celebrated by Americans in February dating back to 1926.

The idea is credited to a Harvard scholar, Carter G. Woodson, who was the son of former slaves. Woodson dedicated his life to ensuring that black history was accurately documented and disseminated.

The first event organized in 1926 by Woodson was the first annual Negro History Week, selecting the second week of February in honor of the birthdays of pivotal black supporters Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Black History Month pays tribute to inspirational African Americans from the past, as well as those who will continue to make history in the future.

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