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Burbank Leader
A dance class with a twist

By Lauren Hilgers, February 01, 2006

It's a virtual dance studio after school at Roosevelt Elementary School as students learn to keep the beat to a hip-hop rhythm.

For the girls in the after-school dance program at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary in Burbank, hip-hop presents a number of challenges.

There are the steps, the arm movements and keeping the beat.

Then there is the music to consider.

"Do you guys want the fried egg song or the jellyfish song?" dance instructor Amanda Hart asked during a class on Tuesday.

Since Megan Baade, the owner of Garri Dance Studio in Burbank, first began the outreach program three years ago at R.L. Stevenson Elementary, it has spread as quickly as her schedule would allow.

"It got so big that I had to get other teachers to take the classes just so I could spend some time at the studio," the 23-year-old said. "It takes a lot to keep these classes organized."

Baade felt that many students in Burbank weren't getting the opportunity to try dancing because they couldn't afford the classes or couldn't make it to the studio.

"This way they conveniently walk right in from school," she said of the program, which provides on-site instruction at elementary schools around Burbank. "And we try to keep it cost-effective for parents -- we only charge $8 per class."

Even after that, 10% of the profits Baade makes from the classes is donated back to the schools' PTA.

Many students who would end up in day care after school get the opportunity to come to one of her classes, learn a few steps, and get some exercise.

"We save a lot of kids from a day-care situation," she said. "At least for 45 minutes."

In the classes, Baade tries to keep the music appropriate and the dance steps simple.

"We use a lot of songs from Disney radio," she said. "We try to keep things simple so it's really fun for the kids."

But 8-year-old Darwin Gerard said the steps take a lot of coordination.

"You have to watch your feet and your arm and your body," she said. "And whether you go to the right or the left."

Tatiana Beverly, who has been dancing for two years, said that dancing helps her learn to focus.

"My favorite part is learning the steps," the 9-year-old said.

Tatiana has tried jazz and other forms of dance before, but hip-hop remains her favorite.

"It gives you a lot of exercise," she said. "And I like the music."

* LAUREN HILGERS covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3205 or by e-mail at lauren.hilgers@latimes.com.


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