Defer show transports audience to savannah, jungles of Africa

by Bob Gaetjens | Editor Published:

More than 90 students from Henry Defer Intermediate School participated this year in Defer Music Ensemble, an after-school club which produced its show this week at the gym at Defer.

Directed by Defer music teacher Beth Hepburn and choreographed by sixth-grade teacher Kalindi Stockton, the extravaganza of music and dance was based on "Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky," an African folk tale that explains the origin of the celestial bodies.

For about a half hour the evening of April 16, several hundred audience members were transported to the jungles and savannahs of Africa, as fifth- and sixth-graders danced and sang their way through the folk tale.

Parent Karyn Hall said Defer Music Ensemble met after school, and the cost to participate was $20 per student. 

"Even them getting 100 kids in the right place and doing what they're supposed to do -- just that was hard," said Hall, whose daughter Vivian participated. "We're lucky to have such a great teachers."

Hepburn said some of the music and much of the dance was improvised. 

"We started with a lot of improvisational things like mirroring," she said of the choreography. "A back and forth started between the dancers and the drummers."

Stockton said students started dances with their own movements, and she helped them add elements of African dance. 

"Every dance is different as far as the movement goes," she said. "A lot of times, the kids who are not creating dance in their lives, they find out they can really move well."

Hepburn said it was fun building the show around students' ideas. 

"It was fun to see the ideas of the choreography," she said. "We really do develop from their creativity, and it's so much fun."

Rehearsals began in October one afternoon a week, generally, and continued through last week's performances, although more rehearsals were scheduled closer to the show. The show was presented April 16 in the evening and three times during the school day April 17 for students and any parents or family members who were unable to attend the evening performance.

Helping the students learn and develop the music and choreography were Streetsboro Middle School students Julia Grimm, who helped with music, and Marie Kallay, who helped with dance, said Hepburn.

Either of them could take a small group of students, and, with a brief set of directions, help students develop and learn a piece of music or dance, said Hepburn. 

By fifth- and sixth-grade, Hepburn said students have developed music skills, through their classes, that enable them improvise.

"The music program here is really good," she said. "It starts with Mr. [Mark] Izzo at Wait [Primary School]. Mark and I work so well together."

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

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