The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Let the Children Dance


December 19, 2018

By Donna L. Miller

BCJ News

Mark Matthews is a writer, historian, officer with the Missoula Folklore Society, and writing instructor at the University of Montana College of Technology in Missoula. He is also a dance caller/instructor who offers his expertise to Montana students as part of the Humanities Montana's Speakers in the Schools program. This multi-talented dance historian spent this past December 10 and 11 in Chinook performing with students at Meadowlark Elementary School in a presentation designed to "Let the Children Dance."

Collaborating with Bobbi Weinheimer, Meadowlark's physical education teacher this year, Matthews worked with individual classes to expose students to historical dances, physical fitness through dancing, and teamwork skills through dancing. Following Matthews' lead and instruction, students experienced the joy of movement.

To the physical aspect, Matthews added a historical perspective of dancing. He explained how American dancing evolved with certain social changes and how certain dances stimulated changes in American social life. Sharing details that connected the promenade to democracy and the jitterbug to desegregation, Matthews described how ordinary people reacted to each other with respect and

admiration on the dance floor, providing the first indication that racial integration in the United States actually stood a chance of succeeding.

Matthews not only disclosed information about the spectrum of historic dances-which runs from the colonial English country dance to the French quadrille to the American square dance and the waltz-but also demonstrated some of the more modern movements, such as the one-steps, the Charleston, mambo, twist and disco.

According to Principal Jon Martin, Matthews was very well-received by most students. "His dances are engaging and interactive, which encourages most students to participate. Students that are reluctant at first usually see how much fun the dances are and start enjoying them quickly," Martin said. "We were able to bring him to our school with the help of a Humanities Montana Grant," he added.

Humanities Montana is the state's independent, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, founded in 1972 by thirteen academic and civic leaders in response to Congress' National Arts and Humanities Act of 1965. Humanities Montana's educational and cultural programs help Montanans develop a deeper understanding of humanity's values and beliefs, intellectual achievements, diverse cultures, and heritages.

Offering programs that encourage student engagement and participation, the Humanities Montana Speakers in the Schools catalog lists over 100 programs on topics like public affairs, history, Native American cultures, and literature.


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