A young girl twirls, aided by the gentle hand of her teacher. Dad looks on, pleased with his little pride and joy.
For Janice Baker, an assistant professor in kinesiology and director of the Tuesday’s Creations creative dance class, the scene is a common occurrence.
The class is one of many dance outreach programs offered by the Department of Kinesiology at Iowa State University. This Friday at 5:15 p.m., the class will hold a free Earth Day outreach event for children age four and up in the Forker Building’s Betty Toman Dance Theatre (room 196). Through the art of barefoot dance, children will explore the ways they can move their bodies and create with movement. They’ll also learn dances from around the world.
Baker engages in a number of dance outreach programs for all ages. She said that children bring a special kind of magic to her activities.
“Each age group teaches you something,” Baker said. “Kids are so important. They add that little sparkle.”
Tuesday’s Creations began its spring barefoot dancing sessions April 4. Two one-hour sessions, April 18 and 25, remain this term. Classes are $1 each and are held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Forker Building’s Betty Toman Dance Theatre. Children may attend any or all of the sessions.
Alex Hays, a freshman majoring in pre-diet and exercise and minoring in dance, is assisting with the classes for the first time.
“The program is such a good opportunity for the kids who are participating in it because it teaches them so many qualities that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives,” she said. “The kids learn to interact with others, be creative, and make their own decisions. I believe the program helps the kids to start building their own self-confidence.”
Baker said that confidence-building is a key part of the program.
“We help students make connections with their learning and abilities so they feel empowered, appreciated, and acknowledged,” she said.
Growing through fun
Amber Markley, a sophomore majoring in child, adult, and family services enrolled in the Dance 160 ballroom dancing course, said her involvement with the program has increased her understanding of working with children and the steps in their development.
“With my major, I have learned a lot about many forms of development,” she said. “I have realized that this program helps children’s minds develop — both cognitively and emotionally — through balancing and making social connections. This program is helping children to develop new and different schemas, form new neurons that fire with each move they make, and recognize their bodies and their range of motion.”
While the dancing and creative movement has its developmental perks, Markley said it’s also just plain fun.
“This program helps each child have fun at the end of the day,” she said. “It also allows parents to enjoy their children’s interactions with other adults and children their same age.”
Teagan DiSalvo, a senior majoring in environmental science and minoring in dance, has witnessed the interactions since her freshman year. She credits Baker’s teaching style for the program’s success.
“The creative environments such as Tuesday's Creations that Janice creates have been truly life-changing for me,” DiSalvo said. “Her style of teaching makes dance and movement accessible to everyone. Students explore in their own way and no student moves the same. I have grown as a teacher, dancer, and as a consumer of the art of dance by participating in activities such as Tuesday's Creations.”