World dance classes for kids starting in fall

Difinity Dance Studio and Productions is bring Kids World Dance to Morden, with classes starting in September.

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The City of Morden will be offering Kids World Dance classes starting September 16.

Recreation Programmer Stephanie Dueck said the city has been working a lot with Regional Connections and thought the dance classes would be another great resource to have. “It’ll be an introduction to different kinds of dances and learning the meaning behind dances, and being active together while doing that,” she said. “It’s also another program for kids to be involved in if it’s something that interests them. They’re shorter chunks of time that they can commit to, and for some families that may be easier to participate in.”

Kids in the program will be learning Tahitian, Afro-Caribbean, Latin and Bollywood dances through interactive group dancing, games and drills.

The program was put together with Difinity Dance Studio and Productions, a Winnipeg based studio that collaborates with community organizations to provide performing arts services to at-risk youth, disabled youth and adults and the elderly.

Artistic Director of Difinity Dance Stephanie Strugar founded the dance studio out of a desire to bring accessible dance classes to all areas of the province.

“As  a child I lived in different areas of rural Manitoba on my family’s farms, raised by a single mom who was a nurse,” she said. “She always taught me the importance of eating healthy and exercise, however, there were no dance classes near me, and she could not afford the cost to travel to Winnipeg to take classes there.”

Strugar said she battled depression and an eating disorder, and dance classes kept her out of trouble and allowed her to express herself in a positive way.

“When I was 18, I decided I wanted to start teaching dance classes, providing them to at risk youth for free through community grant funding,” she said. “My passion for providing accessible health and wellness programs to families grew from there.”

After years of teaching dance classes and workshops, Strugar said she realized that many dance programs are segregated between cultural dance and contemporary dance (like ballet and hip hop).

“From studying, teaching, and training in all dance genres and sub-dance styles I knew that these categories could be instructed in harmony with another as they have much in common,” she said. “I believe that to be a truly inclusive dance community, inter-cultural dance education should be provided to all dancers at a recreation level at the minimum.”

The world dance program provides exercise and health benefits to the kids that participate, but also provides them with a chance to learn about other cultures. “Growing up I was not taught about other cultures even though I had a desire to,” Strugar said. “I believe ensuring that children and youth receive appropriate, professional cultural education should be a part of every school’s and community’s mandate. Children should not have to search out cross cultural dance education, it should be readily available to them.”

“Children who understand cultural diversity have a stronger identity, and this improves their self esteem, mental health and well being in their formative years into adulthood,” she added. “World Dance Program can help with various inter-cultural community challenges such as bullying at school, and newcomer family isolation due to the lack of relevant cultural recreation education services in their area.”

Strugar said the health benefits of dance can include improved brain function, heart health, muscle strength, balance and coordination and reduced depression in some cases. Dance can also give children social and interpersonal skills, a sense of self-discipline and an added connection to the community.

Strugar said part of the reason she wanted to bring the program to Morden was the influx of newcomers moving to the area.

“Now more than ever recreational health and wellness programs need to include cross-cultural perspectives, and be taught in an inter-cultural format to be inclusive and accessible to the entire community,” she said. “When cultural dance is taught effectively it encourages inter-cultural conversations and dance participants learn cultural appreciation and tolerance.”

“Dancing is therapeutic in nature,” she added. “It allows a dancer to freely express themselves without words, eliminating frustration, anger, and other emotions related to depression. World Dance program was created taking the whole body and mind into consideration with the goal of achieving overall health and wellness for the participants using cross cultural recreational dance training.”

Kids can have a chance to try out the program on September 7 at Prairie Dale School in Schanzenfeld. The program for ages 3-5 runs from 1 to 1:30 p.m., ages 5-8 from 1:30 to 2:15 and ages 8-12 from 2:15 to 3 p.m. The city will also be training a local instructor for the classes, and the training program is open to other instructors to sign up and get the certification.

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