Student helps school children through creative dance

As pop star Lady Gaga says in her song, just dance.

That was junior modern dance major Summer McGowan’s goal as coordinator of her Project Junior Giveback program, Just Dance.

McGowan recently met with about 65 students at Oakhurst Elementary School in Fort Worth to teach first graders the art of movement through dance.

“It’s creative movement; it’s not actually a technical dance class,” she said. “But it’s something that just gets kids moving … and introduces dance to them in a fun way.”

McGowan said she thought it was important to teach children to keep an active lifestyle in an innovative way and she wanted to teach students kinds of movement that are different from the traditional styles of dance, such as jazz, hip-hop and ballet.

Jared Cobb, assistant director of TCU Transitions and mentor for McGowan’s Just Dance program, said the Project Junior Giveback program is intended to let students define “give back” in their own ways. As the program is in its first year, the Transitions team wanted students to create different angles of contributing to society with their programs.

After presenting her idea to the Transitions team, McGowan said she was awarded $150 to proceed with her project. She used some of that money to purchase handkerchiefs for the students to use in one of her dance techniques, she said. The students hold the handkerchiefs in different formations allowing them to make creative movements with their bodies, she said.

Cobb, who used to be a physical education teacher at Oakhurst Elementary, said he helped McGowan get in contact with the school.

Julie Vidrine, TCU alumna and first grade physical education teacher at Oakhurst Elementary, said McGowan’s creative movement program lets students exercise without even realizing it. She said the first grade class often does dance-related activities, but this is the first time a TCU student has come to instruct a class.

McGowan said she loved being able to share her passion for dance with children in the community and knew she was doing something good when she saw the smiles on the childrens’ faces during her activities.

Caitlin Daetwyler, a junior modern dance major who helped lead the dance class with McGowan, said she has taught creative movement classes to children before.

“My ultimate goal was to make sure that Summer didn’t get overrun by the 65 first-graders,” she said.

McGowan said she is going to teach more creative movement dance classes at Oakhurst Elementary in April and May to continue her contribution to the community.