Steamboat’s 3rd grade students to experience the world through dance with new class
Coming soon to a third grade class near you: world dance, a new program in Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Dance Theatre was granted $3,000 in funding earlier this year from the Steamboat Springs Education Fund to bring regular dance programming to students at Strawberry Park Elementary, Soda Creek Elementary, Steamboat Montessori and Sleeping Giant School.
While Steamboat Dance Theatre is best known for its annual concert that brings local dancers and original choreography to the stage, the organization prides itself on having a diverse portfolio of programs intended to serve the entire community.
The world dance class, considered a school outreach program, is designed to enhance the quality of dance instruction required by the state of Colorado’s physical education standards.
Per state requirements, elementary schools are required to offer physical education curriculum focused on a wide variety of activities, which includes dance.
Kristen Jespersen, executive director of Steamboat Dance Theatre, said this aspect of the curriculum currently meets the bare minimum of the state standards.
“There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the extensive benefits of dance education, ranging from improved test scores and social interactions to increased compassion and other emotional benefits,” Jespersen said.
Hoping to expose students to dance education and spark students’ interest, Steamboat Dance Theatre hired Scott Goodhart to teach the world dance class, which includes not only learning dances from across the country but aspects of geography and cultural context, as well.
“I’m excited to reach most every child coming through the public schools in Steamboat,” Goodhart said. “Many people aren’t afforded the opportunity to dance at a young age, or they get caught up in sports and academics. When I’m able to come into the schools to teach dance, it’s sometimes an introduction to something they truly love and something they may never have thought of otherwise.”
Goodhart, who moved to Steamboat in 2018, was previously employed by a dance program in Chicago called Dancing With Class, which taught in Chicago’s public school system. The program started with ballroom dance for fifth graders and expanded to world dance and other creative dance programs for K-8 classes.
In developing the world dance class for Steamboat students, Goodhart will begin with Central America, South America and the Caribbean, studying merengue and salsa. From there, students “travel” to South and Southeast Asia, focusing on bhangra and wushu. They will learn about macru and yankadi from West Africa and, Goodhart said, he always likes to include some swing dancing, which was developed in New York City.
“There are so many directions to go, but I want to give at least a little taste of worldwide culture dance,” Goodhart said.
Goodhart has already taught the class at the Montessori school and is now working with students at Soda Creek. Third graders at Strawberry Park and Sleeping Giant will begin the class in the next few months.
“My dream is that some of our young dancers are inspired to learn more, discover they love moving to music and build comfort and confidence as they progress,” Goodhart said.
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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Work to form a new strategic plan for the Steamboat Springs School District will start next week with the first sessions of a listening tour aimed at getting broad community feedback.