York City students dance to a new beat

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

Ever heard of a Baby Freeze?

It's a breakdance move in which a dancer momentarily freezes in place, the rest of their body suspended in air while their weight rests on their hands.

Students from Devers Pre-K-8 School got to try it out thanks to a program that teaches young people how to dance. The students learned moves from Beat Ya Feet Academy, a Washington, D.C.-based group that travels around the world.

"Good beat, good music and easy dance," said Paula Gilbert, who chairs the Positive Energy initiative that teaches young people how to dance.

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About 200 third- and fourth-graders spent two days a week for the past 10 weeks learning new dance moves as part of the Positive Energy Arts Foundation’s dance program. This program launched in January at Hannah Penn Pre-K-8 School, Gilbert said, and the foundation plans to visit eight York City schools over the next three years. 

Michelle Audet, the interim executive director, explained that the program is an in-school event that replaces gym class during those days. Students who truly do not want to dance, she said, can partake in other arts such as painting in place of new dance skills. 

Deonte Callahan, in back, of Beat Ya Feet Academy, watching as the J.L.Devers PreK-8 Elementary School students taking part in the Positive Energy Arts dance in their school gym in York on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.

Gilbert said it would be great to introduce this program to other school districts, but right now they only have funding for the York City School District. She said the foundation also wants to add more grade levels. 

“What we’re doing is trying to get a taste of this into the schools so that the schools will see that this is a positive influence,” Gilbert said. 

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She added that students from the previous school year’s program enjoyed it so much that they signed up for the foundation’s summer series dance camp, which will be at Martin Library in York City. 

Gilbert said the students were shy at first and nervous about the showcase. By the end, however, they were excited to show off their skills. She said the program leaves the children with a feeling of accomplishment and the confidence of knowing they can learn skills that at first seem difficult. 

— Reach Meredith Willse at mwillse@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.