• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Dance teaches Appalachian culture to students

Artist-in-resident Jennifer Rose spent three days educating students at Simmons Elementary about Appalachian dance and folk music this week. It was Rose's third residency at Simmons since 2012, when Simmons music teacher Sabrina Bowmer received the first of three grants from VSA Kentucky, a nonprofit organization that promotes arts education and creative expression. Bowmer, who grew up in northern Ohio, said she didn't know anything about Appalachian folk music and dance when Rose first came to Simmons five years ago. So having an artist-in-residence was a learning experience for her, too. It continues to make her a better music teacher. "Appalachia is the most important culture that we cover because it's our music and dance. It's from Kentucky," said Bowmer. Rose, who grew up in Berea singing and dancing alongside family and friends, said, "Traditional dance has evolved into other styles, but it still exists." Teaching students how to move to the music "allows us to learn history," she continued. "...We don't even necessarily know we're learning it, but we're learning it. How did people relate to each other then? What did they think was fun? Why did they think that was fun?" Rose hopes learning about traditional dance and folk music will encourage students to find out more about a region in the country known as Appalachia. And she wants them to know the value of nurturing a community of individuals - their class - while holding hands and dancing together in a circle. By the end of her residency, Rose said, "They say it's fun because it is." Second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students all learned about Appalachian dance and music during Rose's three-day, artist-in-residency at Simmons Elementary, which ended on Wednesday, March 22. Rose spent five hours with one fourth-grade class to prepare them for an Appalachian dance performance in front of other students on the final day of her residency at Simmons. Bowmer said she will continue to build on what the fourth-graders have learned about traditional dance and folk music over the past three days. "The awesome thing about this (experience for our students) is dance is universal. Everybody can do it. It doesn't matter where you're from. It doesn't matter what language you speak. Music and dance - it's all completely universal," Bowmer said.

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