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Timber Trail dancers stomp school tradition

Fifth graders at Timber Trail Elementary presented a “gumboot” style dance at the annual school talent show.  The dance style originated with mine workers in South Africa, who stomped their feet while singing during the workday.

Most soloists for Timber Trail’s annual fifth grade dance this year were boys, many of whom were attracted by the dance style’s strong, athletic elements. Several boys not only participated in dance, but also in choreography for the performance.

Article and photos by Lisa Crockett

In keeping with a school tradition now in its fourth year, every fifth grader at Timber Trail Elementary (TTE) spent the school year learning a group dance to present at the school’s annual talent show.  In past years, students have danced to pop music, classic rock, and even techno.  This year, however, students danced only to the sound of their own hands and feet.

“The kids chose to do something called gumboot dancing this year, which is a style of dance that features stomping and body percussion like snapping, patting and clapping,” said Cindy Berndt, TTE’s music teacher.

Gumboot originated in South Africa, where mine workers wearing Wellington boots (nicknamed gumboots in South Africa) with bells attached, stomped in time to songs they sang while they worked.  The athletic and challenging nature of the dance captured the imagination of students who made significant contributions to this year’s production.

“For the first time, this year the dance was 100 percent student-choreographed,” said TTE’s art teacher Wendy Wilson, who worked with Berndt to coordinate the production.  “There are different styles of gumboot dancing like ‘krum’ and ‘hip-hop’ and each class voted on the style they wanted to do and then worked from there to come up with their own ideas.”

Also new this year was a student-produced backdrop which featured graffiti-style art based on the work of artist Keith Haring.  The bright, bold patterns played off the strong, confident moves of the students.

“I really like soccer and competitive swimming,” said fifth grader Cy Sokolowiski, who was a featured soloist during the dance performance.  “This was new, but it was great to learn how to move my body in a different way and face a new challenge.”



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