Minds in Motion gets students moving

November 18, 2004

The Minds-in-Motion program is rounding out its fifth annual trip to Martinsville this week, so if your child dren come home from school stomping their feet, waving their arms and clapping their hands, don't be alarmed.

The program, conducted by the Richmond Ballet, introduces Martinsville elementary and middle school students to dance with a four-week workshop. Its grand finale is a free performance at 7 p.m. Friday in the Martinsville High School auditorium.

"It gives them something they can feel good about," said Minds-in-Motion Director Brett Bonda. "I just love that everyone is giving it their all out there."

The program begins in the fourth grade and seeks to demystify dance by teaching a series of choreographed moves that anyone can do. The kids wear T-shirts and jeans for the performances, not the tights associated with ballet, Bonda said.

The Richmond Ballet began the program 10 years ago, he added, to give back to the community for the long term.

"If we don't do it, no one will. They get music and PE, why not dance?" Bonda asked.

On Wednesday, two fourth grade classes at Albert Harris Intermediate practiced their numbers for Friday's show. The 200-person performance includes all fourth-graders as well as a select group of fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders called Team XXL, Bonda said.

This older group of students has been involved in Minds-in-Motion since the fourth grade, when they were chosen for Team XL, the fourth grade select group. While the Minds-in-Motion program works every day with all the fourth-graders during school hours, Team XXL members meet after school for practice, Bonda said.

There are 15 Team XXL members this year and 18 Team XL members, according to Crystal France from the Piedmont Arts Association (PAA), which sponsors the Minds-in-Motion program.

But the program is not focused on finding dancers, Bonda said.

"When we're asked to work with a school, we tell them it must be with all the fourth-graders and be part of the regular school day like any other subject," he said.

This year's performance works around the narrated stories of three Virginians ? Maggie Walker, William Cody Spencer and Albert Harris, Bonda said.

Walker, from Richmond, was the first woman to own a bank, while Spencer founded the Imperial Savings and Loan Association on Fayette Street, Bonda said. Harris was a local pioneer in black education.

Martinsville Vice Mayor Kimble Reynolds will be narrating Friday's performance, he added.

Some students, such as fourth-graders Morgan Gutshall, Monique Hunt and J'Vontea Perminter, really get into the program.

"It makes you want to do more dancing," Gutshall said.

"With three of my friends I do dance performances at the park," but now he gets to show off his talents in school as well, Perminter said.

"It's really fun" and different from the other performances Hunt said she has done, such as talent shows and church choir.

Martinsville is the only school system outside of Richmond that Minds-in-Motion visits, Bonda said. He credits PAA Executive Director Toy Cobbe with getting the program to Martinsville.

"Toy Cobbe saw one of our performances in Richmond and bugged us until we came here," Bonda said with a laugh.

Minds-in-Motion is made possible by contributions from the Martinsville Speedway Children's Foundation, the Charity League of Martinsville and Henry County and The Harvest Foundation, France said. Taco Bell also is providing dinner for the students on Friday night, she added.


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