Re­liv­ing our past

Sa­cred Heart stu­dents learn about Ire­land through Art­sS­marts This ar­ti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished in the May 25, 2010 edi­tion of The South­ern Gazette.

The Southern Gazette - - Sports -

Emily Stokes ac­knowl­edged she knew very lit­tle about Ire­land up un­til just a few months ago.

Now, she and other Grade 4 stu­dents at Marys­town’s Sa­cred Heart Academy have learned how to per­form a tra­di­tional Irish dance, can speak some words and phrases and have a bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the coun­try’s cul­ture.

In­deed, Ire­land has been on the hips, lips and minds of stu­dents at the school since the be­gin­ning of the year.

It’s all part of an ArtS­marts ini­tia­tive.

Prin­ci­pal Cindy Pope ex­plained the school re­ceived a grant from the New­found­land and Labrador Arts Coun­cil to im­ple­ment the pro­gram, which al­lowed them to bring in pro­fes­sional Irish dancer Shawn Sil­ver from St. John’s to work with stu­dents.

Mr. Sil­ver has dropped by the school for sev­eral week­long vis­its since Jan­uary. In early June, the stu­dents will show off what they’ve learned dur­ing this year’s ap­pro­pri­ately Ir­ishthemed an­nual spring con­cert.

Ms. Pope ex­plained the goal of the Art­sS­marts pro­gram is to ex­pose stu­dents to a branch of the arts while in­te­grat­ing other as­pects of the school cur­ricu­lum. In this case, dance is be­ing used to teach phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, mu­sic and so­cial stud­ies.

“The idea of tra­di­tional Irish danc­ing is not some­thing stu­dents would nec­es­sar­ily get a lot of ex­po­sure to, so be­ing able to pro­vide kids in ru­ral New­found­land with that op­por­tu­nity is a big plus of the pro­gram, and to do that through a skilled and renowned artist in that area such as Shawn Sil­ver is a plus as well.”

Mr. Sil­ver, who has fam­ily ties to the Burin Penin­sula, has com­piled nu­mer­ous Irish dance ac­co­lades and cre­den­tials since he left his job as a stock­bro­ker in Toronto back in the late 1990s, to pur­sue his dream full time.

Artis­tic di­rec­tor of ‘iDance Inc.’ in St. John’s, which he started in 1998, he in­di­cated he has been work­ing with Memo­rial Univer­sity Irish lan­guage pro­fes­sor Brid Fal­coner for the past few years to de­velop a ‘Celtic Roots’ pro­gram.

That project, which in­cor­po­rates Irish lan­guage, dance and mu­sic, will be of­fered for the ini­tial time this sum­mer in St. John’s and Trin­ity.

Tech­ni­cally, how­ever, he ac­knowl­edged the stu­dents at Sa­cred Heart Academy are the

“For young peo­ple, to have ac­com­plished so much in a short pe­riod of time, it re­ally is an in­cred­i­ble feat – par­don the pun – but they have learned a lot about cul­tural stud­ies, his­tory and, of course, phys ed is prob­a­bly at the top of the list.”

first par­tic­i­pants. Ms. Fal­coner has also vis­ited Sa­cred Heart Academy to work with the stu­dents.

As the Art­sS­marts pro­gram re­quired, Mr. Sil­ver noted the stu­dents have learned much more than just dance steps.

“For young peo­ple, to have ac­com­plished so much in a short pe­riod of time, it re­ally is an in­cred­i­ble feat – par­don the pun – but they have learned a lot about cul­tural stud­ies, his­tory and, of course, phys ed is prob­a­bly at the top of the list.”

Emily ac­knowl­edged the dance rou­tine may only last six min­utes, but the ef­fort put into prac­tic­ing again and again cer­tainly is good ex­er­cise.

“We’ve taken a lot of time learn­ing it, and it’s re­ally phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.”

Mr. Sil­ver’s pres­ence has raised the pro­file of Irish danc­ing through­out the en­tire school. Although he has worked pri­mar­ily with the Grade 4 stu­dents, he has vis­ited or worked with most other classes at Sa­cred Heart.

Joshua Pittman in­di­cated his younger brother watches him work on the steps at home and has re­peat­edly ex­pressed an in­ter­est. Like­wise, Me­gan Wise­man rec­og­nized her younger sis­ter has asked about Irish danc­ing.

Joshua noted the sub­ject has also been of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to him be­cause of an Irish fam­ily con­nec­tion.

“My great-grand­fa­ther was from Ire­land and there’s pic­tures of him Irish danc­ing when he was lit­tle.”

For Mr. Sil­ver, watch­ing the stu­dents, who all have different lev­els and abil­i­ties, learn from one an­other as they dance is what he en­joys most.

“I find watch­ing that team spirit build it­self, the kids build­ing skills and the con­fi­dence that comes from that is pretty in­cred­i­ble.”

FILE PHOTOS

Pro­fes­sional Irish dancer Shawn Sil­ver has vis­ited Sa­cred Heart Academy on sev­eral oc­ca­sions since the Jan­uary to work with stu­dents.

The stu­dents will put what they’ve learned on dis­play dur­ing a Irish-themed spring con­cert June 3.

Through Irish dance, the Grade 4 stu­dents have learned about Ire­land’s lan­guage and cul­ture while get­ting a great phys­i­cal work­out.

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