A dance around the world

Seven-week program teaches culture

(Students at Alianza Charter School engage in a dance as part of the Dance Around the World performance put on by Tandy Beal & Company. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — Alianza Charter School students recently took a trip around the world, all without leaving their multi-purpose room.

That “trip” came thanks to the Dance Around the World Program, which featured dances from Cuba, Bali, Africa, Peru, the Philippines and Mexico.

The seven-week program was presented by Tandy Beal & Company, whose instructors taught dances from those countries to different classes at the school, who then performed the dances for their peers.

Bringing dance into schools — or any art program for that matter — has been shown to improve students’ academic performance and boost graduation rates, said Santa Cruz County Office of Education Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator Audrey Sirota.


These dancers perform traditional Mexican dance as part of the Dance Around the World presentation. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

“What we find is that ongoing, sustained arts instruction makes a huge difference for students,” she said.

In addition to the student performances, the young people watched professional dancers perform dances from their home countries.

The last of these was a Folklórico dance from Mexico, which elicited loud cheers from the excited students.

This was a deliberate attempt to show the children that their culture has just as much validity and artistic integrity as all the other nationalities they had watched, said Tandy Beal, who founded her eponymous dance company.

“We need to look out of ourselves to the bigger world, and we know that the world has a lot to offer us,” Beal said. “The immigrants who come to our community enrich our community.”

The Dance Around the World Program was funded by ArtSmart, Tandy Beal & Company’s Arts Education Program.


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