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Dance workshop gets feet moving in Arlee

ARLEE — On Friday morning, the rhythmic pounding of African drums and squeals of glee from young dancers echoed across the Arlee Elementary School gymnasium during a visit from African dance teachers Tarn Ream and Michael Meyer.

The African dance and culture workshop was one of the school’s Friday Free Three Activities, a program the school started last fall in conjunction with the four-day school week to give elementary students a fun, educational option for their Friday mornings. The program offers “three hours of free fun” one or two Fridays a month, coordinator Kim Folden said.

Ream and Meyer, the founders of Missoula-based Unity Dance and Drum, Inc., visited the school through a program called MoDE (Model Dance Education), Folden said. They taught several songs and dances to 17 excited elementary students and four parents. The kids also learned a little about African culture, including how the djembe drums are made from cows and the importance of social dancing.

“It was very interactive, which I though was awesome,” Folden said.

Following the dance workshop, the instructors gave the kids a chance to try out their own percussion skills on several of the drums — a big hit with the youngsters.

“You guys played well; you danced well; and you asked really good questions,” Ream told the children. “I was really impressed with you all today. We had fun.”

Folden encouraged all elementary students and their parents to attend upcoming Friday Free Three events like the dental health presentation scheduled for Feb. 12. February is Children’s Dental Health Month, she noted, and a dentist from the Tribal Health Department will be speaking to the kids about keeping healthy mouths, followed by a Valentine’s craft-making session. March will feature a journaling and journal-making day and a field trip to the post office.

Each Friday Free Three activity includes snacks and crafts, and they’re all free and “pretty much open to the public,” Folden said.

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