Fountaindale students in step for Field Day

June 09, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

On Tuesday, about 400 children borrowed "Sir Duke" - Stevie Wonder's Big Band salute - for a dancing display of minds at work and bodies at play.

After many weeks of practice, the student body of Fountaindale Elementary School in Hagerstown kicked off its annual Field Day with a group groove.

"Am I nervous? Yep," choreographer Toby Towson said as he hurried across the pavement. He had a stepladder in one hand and a video camera in the other.


Soon, he quieted the ensemble.

"Invisible!" Towson called out, a signal for dancers to be still and alert.

Then, "Sir Duke" flowed from the speakers and the dancing began.

Lined up in rows on the playground pavement, students performed "Sports Dance," a set sequence of athletic movements Towson taught them.

Children segued from bodybuilding poses to basketball shots to baseball throws, from football kicks to running motions to jumping jacks.

The show, like the song, lasted nearly four minutes.

For the last few verses - in which Wonder repeats, "You can feel it all over" - children formed small, snaking conga lines. They grinned and they bopped.

"Did you see us?" one boy yelled after the final note. "We were synchronized!"

It was about what Towson had in mind.

"I saw a lot of joy and a lot of work and discipline," he said afterward, his nerves calmed.

Towson - who is based at South Hagerstown High School but teaches dance at three elementary schools, too - visited each Fountaindale class at least two or three times over the last several weeks. He explained steps and left behind video copies of the movements.

He said he wrote "Sports Dance" for a two-training session for children in Harlem, N.Y., about 10 years ago.

About six months ago, he found an old videotape of that session and decided it would be perfect for Field Day.

Towson said there are little lessons - getting along, using gentle motion, being aware - tucked into the training.

"I feel like I'm teaching a lot more than dance," he said.

The dance was a prelude to Field Day, a morning and afternoon of relays, kickball, water balloon tosses, a tug-of-war and jewelry-making.

Principal Donna Newcomer said that at one station, students could pet rabbits and two-day old goats.

In between, children returned to class, still buzzing. Jenise Hart, 10, and other students in Lori Kelley's fifth-grade room said they felt prepared for the dance number.

When Towson wasn't there, they practiced with Kelley, Crystal Macafity, 11, added.

"It takes a lot of practice," Malik Powell, 10, said.

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