This halftime routine is anything but routine
Sep 17, 2018 03:53PM
● By Jana Klopsch
Dancers play around with their new friends prior to their performance. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
Special needs students from Kauri Sue Hamilton School dazzled football fans during a halftime show at a Riverton football game with a one-minute dance to Meghan Trainor’s tune “Better When I’m Dancin’” from “The Peanuts Movie.”
“I think anyone that witnessed that probably feels pretty emotional tonight—I know I couldn’t hold it together,” said Brynn Perkins, Riverton High School dance company director.
The performance was collaboration between the Kauri Sue students and 83 members of Riverton High School’s drill team, dance company and cheer squad.
“I think the coolest thing I witnessed is these kids can do hard things,” said Perkins. “Sometimes, I think we don’t think they can, and then you give them the opportunity, and they rise and they do it.”
The choreography for the show was adaptable to abilities ranging from students who could mimic all the moves, to some able to just follow the arm movements with assistance, to one student who just joined in for the ending bow. The routine incorporated visual and tactile stimulation from purple pom-poms, which some students were reluctant to relinquish after the show.
Perkins said she has always emphasized to her students that everyone can dance and that it can be a part of anyone’s life.
“Having them witness the effect that movement and dance and music can have on these kids has been humbling and really amazing for them to see,” she said.
The experience inspired dance company member Gentry Rose to appreciate her ability to dance. The senior said she gained a better understanding of her own movement by slowing down and helping others explore theirs.
“I’m definitely more grateful for it,” said Rose. “I’ve been dancing since I was 3, but I feel like I’m still learning things from these kids because I wouldn’t have ever done something that way because I don’t have the limitation that they do.”.
Another Dance Company dancer, Mikayla Milligan, said the students were fun to be around.
“All these kids are incredible people, and I just feel lucky to have them rub off on me,” said the senior. “They’re OK with who they are. They are who they are, and they love life.”
Kauri Sue Principal Rita Bouillon said many of her students love dancing. They responded well to the dancing and movement games the dancers played during the three rehearsals held in the weeks leading up to the big performance.
The high-school students that participated in the halftime show are eager to visit the school again soon.
Haylee Lamb, a junior on the drill team, plans to volunteer more often now that she knows the students there. She didn’t know what to expect at first and wasn’t sure how she would communicate with the mostly nonverbal students. She found they could communicate through dance.
Riverton’s Peer Leadership Team regularly volunteers at the school. Other teams, classes and organizations have also volunteered their time with the students. The Riverton High School football team recently spent a day volunteering at Kauri Sue.
“The boys loved it; they didn’t want to leave,” said coach Jody Morgan, who previously worked in special education. He wanted his players to realize football is a gift, that not everyone has the ability to do what they get to do.
Morgan was pleased to see these “cool” kids so engaged with the special needs students.
“The main takeaway I got is our kids just want to be good people,” said Morgan.
His team captains came up with ideas to involve their new friends in high school activities.
“We want to get to know these kids, get them out to our games, have them start experiencing part of high school life that they don’t have the opportunity to,” said Morgan.
The players designed T-shirts for Kauri Sue students to wear to receive free admission to Riverton games. One student was invited to be an honorary captain and participate in the coin toss at the Sept. 7 home game, the night the dance group performed.
“It’s good for both schools to come together to celebrate these kids that don’t get the same opportunities that a regular high school kids does,” said Morgan.