Music teacher Gayle Bridgford had the North Street School swinging this week. Parents and children came together to learn a slew of peppy international folk dances. The dances, such as the Chimes of Dunkirk from New England, the Little Shoemaker from the Netherlands, Sasha from Russia, the Washerwomen from Ireland and beyond, were all originally the way communities would come together to socialize. The dances emphasize politeness, but also help to meet new people. Several of the dance steps were designed to rotate partners so that participants would be forced to meet their neighbor, and the one next door, and the one after that. In times when people actually spoke to one another vs. texting, these dances broke the ice and brought friends and families together.
Ms. Bridgford had the role of the “caller”, guiding people through the steps. She conducted four sessions of students and parents throughout the day. She encouraged everyone to listen to the beat, think about the counts, and listen for the melody and “phrasing”. The dances would all “make sense”, she assured the crowd, “as long as everyone listened”. Miraculously, despite many left feet, the dances came off smoothly and with limited collisions.
Ms. Bridgford is a music eduator with a background in dance and ethnomusicology, and enjoys expanding students’ knowledge of music. Principles learned in music go beyond simple rhythms, to math principles such as symmetry, parallels, social skills such as eye contact, and the notion of “feeling” the music through phrasing, not just hearing it.
Some dances were suited for smaller clusters of dancers, and others involved the entire ensemble working together. Participants were encouraged to “hoot” and “holler” which really lent an air of authenticity to the whole experience. The final dance was an original and extremely funny aerobic performance involving paper plates as props and everyone following Ms. Bridgford to the familiar Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s 1981“Hooked On Classics”, featuring disco and up tempo versions of “Flight of the Bumblebee”, “The 1812 Overture”, “Rhapsody in Blue”, and “The Overture to William Tell ”. This is an annual event presented by Ms. Bridgford as part of the music curriculum for the third and fourth graders.