Students show charity with dance program

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By Ryan Johnston

Students from a dance performance class on campus show their charitable side this semester teaching children and teens how to dance with Joven.

Joven is a low-income afterschool program for students of all ages. 

“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” dance Professor George Ann Simpson said. “I met with a woman at Joven, and we got together to set it up and see what would work well.”

For the project, the performance class separates into different groups in two different areas of the city.

One group practices near South San High School to work with high school students on Monday while other groups go to South Flores Street to work with students aging from 4-14 Tuesday and Thursday.

The Joven group sets up classes in churches because they have big rooms for students to practice, and the students that participate in the program were all assigned to the class by Jovan, Simpson said.

“Whenever you teach, you know it better,” Simpson said. “They enhance their dance skills and get the opportunity to get some experience in learning to teach dance.”

Mary Thayer, physical therapy, dance and kinesiology sophomore, said doing charity work should be a year-round commitment.

“People tend to give in the fall and winter months because it’s easy and makes sense,” she said. “Everybody should have some type of service year-round that gives a piece of themselves.”

She said the project with Jovan has helped her prepare for teaching. Thayer works with the group on South Flores.

“Joven is a unique opportunity to give that’s not open to everybody,” she said. “It’s unique to have this gift. It takes years to become a dancer, and it’s neat to give children the abililty to find and express themselves in a safe environment.”

She said while eight to 10 weeks may not be enough time to teach someone how to be a trained dancer, the students she works with have changed dramatically.

“This shows who they can be as people,” she said. “I really enjoy this program. It was an opportunity I didn’t expect. It’s been worth the effort.”

However, education sophomore Erika Garcia and history sophomore Aislin “Ace” Galindo had different experiences with their group near South San High School.

“The older girls were really reserved at first and they really haven’t opened up to us yet,” Galindo said. “We have a different learning style, which is very lenient, so it’s very hard to teach them.”

However, she said at least three girls are trying hard to understand the routine, but the discipline taught to the group is minimal.

“Discipline is important in dancing,” Galindo said. “If you can’t get them quiet, then you can’t go forward and learn.”

Garcia explained their group did not have much time together to teach and learn.

“I would have liked to have interacted or gotten to know them better,” she said, “which is what I wanted to do from the beginning.”

This is the first time DANC 1151,1152 and 2151, Dance Performance 1, 2 and 3, has collaborated with Jovan, and this project counts for a portion of their grade.

Originally, the performance class started as a group that had an interest in performing. Later, the college made it into a class for college credit, Simpson said. However, both Garcia and Galindo feel an official dance team should be started on this campus from the class.

“We should have a dance team and go to competition,” Galindo said. “We feel like a dance team. We are loud, but we are still able to get what we need to get done.”

At the moment, the class performs at basketball games and visits veterans hospitals and nursing homes on a regular basis. They also perform at various campus and city events throughout the year.

The performances will be showcased at 4 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Arneson River Theater in La Villita. They will present a variety of dance styles with hip-hop and a mix of jazz and ballet, Simpson said.

Simpson said the main goal of the classes’ work with Joven was to get them exposed to dance and college life.

She recalled speaking with the young girls at one of the locations. They were amazed to see that the girls in the performance group were from college, she said.

“It’s a big deal to be a college student to them,” Simpson said. “We’d like to get them in that direction of seeing college as a possibility and show that there are fun activities at college like dance.”


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