The after-school dance program is geared for school district students ages 8 to 13 whose families may not be able to afford dance classes. Students were selected by their elementary and middle school dance teachers and represent schools from around the district.
Sacks first wrote the grant for $6,000, but it was rejected five times. She appealed to the foundation a sixth time, emphasizing that this was a new after-school program for public school students.
“We were very interested in helping to support their school district because of the community aspect in their application,” Danae Rees of the foundation said. “The school of the arts is providing credentialed teachers to offer dance experiences to other children within the school district.”
The foundation gave more money than requested — $10,000 — allowing Sacks to offer an eight-week spring program plus summer and fall sessions. Sacks said the spring program is full, but more students will have an opportunity to try the summer and fall sessions.
Classes are taught by certified dance teachers. Sacks is joined by fellow Vancouver Public Schools dance teachers Fern Tresvan, VSAA; Sheyla Mattos, Truman Elementary School; Ixel Olivas, Washington Elementary School; and Rhonda Summers, McLoughlin Middle School. VSAA students who are in the National Honor Society for Dance Arts serve as teaching assistants.
From the front of a mirrored dance studio, Tresvan led a group of students Wednesday in modern dance moves. Unlike a formal dance class, the kids’ dance attire ran the gamut from footless tights to sweatpants to shorts and even jeans. Throughout the studio, ponytails kept long locks out of dancers’ eyes.
“Let’s do that knee spin,” Tresvan said. “We’ll do it slow.”
In the second studio, fourth- and fifth-graders were learning a mixture of contemporary and ballet moves.
“We’re going to do a tendu,” teacher Olivas said. “It’s a fancy way of saying you’re going to point your foot.”
In the third studio, a group of mostly middle school dancers were jumping and grooving as they learned Brazilian dance moves from Mattos.
“Ready? Here we go! Feel that beat?” Mattos encouraged her students. “Move your arms with it. Move your hips with it.”
“I’m giving them a taste of samba,” Mattos said.
After their first class, students boarded school buses to Portland for a field trip to see a BodyVox-2 dance performance with choreography by Éowyn Emerald Barrett, who graduated from VSAA in 2003. Her success demonstrates to these new dancers that dance dreams do come true.