By RENEE FITE
Almost 20 children between ages 3 and 9 gathered in a circle, wiggling and chattering at each other in the Redbud Room in the University Center at Northeastern State University Monday morning.
Musical fun and new friends are the reasons for the Music and Movement summer camp that brought the children together.
The camp’s focus is learning dance moves to Broadway music that the children will also recognize from their classic Disney cartoons, like “Beauty and the Beast,” and basic music skills like keeping time to a beat.
Instructor Kristopher Copeland teaches at NSU in the Communication Studies department and has a background in theater, including shows in Branson and a Kansas City theme park.
“We’ll use theater-type games, along with teaching them dance choreography,” Copeland said. “We’ll also learn fundamentals of music, like counting to a beat.”
Getting the kids’ attention, Copeland had them sit in a circle and welcomed the participants. After asking each child’s name, he started the first game, asking the child beside him to name person next in the circle, and around the circle each child tried to remember the name of their neighbor.
“We’re going to be together all week; it’s important to know each other’s names,” Copeland said.
The next game was a mime game. Copeland pretended to brush his teeth, then passed the movement to the next person, on around the circle. The second mime action was pouring a drink and drinking. All the children around the circle did that.
He then pretended to hand something invisible and heavy to the boy beside him.
After the movement made its way around the circle and the last child handed the heavy, invisible object back they guessed what it was.
“It was a boulder,” Copeland said, “Great job.”
The final mime action was passing something light. Some blew across their hand like blowing dust, others wiggled and pushed at the object like it was a balloon. It was an invisible feather.
Ready to get up and move around, the campers moved into two lines to learn their first dance movements.
“Shorter people in the front, taller ones in the back, make two lines,” Copeland directed.
Asking how many children were familiar with the movie, “Beauty and the Beast” Copeland began singing the first line from one of the songs, “Be Our Guest.”
With children come many questions, the first being, “Can we dance on stage?”
Copeland told the kids they could after they learned the song.
“Each movement will go along with words in the song,” he explained. “Step side, step over, step side and hold. Now repeat.”
Most of the campers were excited to be dancing, especially when the music was playing while they danced. When the dance movements called for holding hands and moving in a circle, some of the boys had a hard time not playing tug of war.
After learning three steps and performing the routine, it was time for an outside break. Kids entertained themselves by drawing with chalk, dipping fingers in the water fountain, running and playing games.
Marley Cummins, 5, is visiting from Texas.
“My meme [Ginger Cummins] brought me because I like movement and music and dancing, all those things,” Cummins said.
It’s the first time for camper Lilly Iron, 7 to come attend the NSU event.
“I wanted to come to learn dancing. We’re going to watch movies about dancing,” Iron said.
Simon Allison, 8, has been to a couple of camps.
“I thought it might be fun, everything,” Allison said.
Two parents were dropping off their children and excited for the fun they would be having.
Jennifer Ford brought daughter Ashlyn, 5-1/2, to the camp because she has always loved music and she loves to dance and do gymnastics.
“This is her first camp and she’s been looking forward to it,” Ford said. “And to meeting new friends.”
These camps are a great opportunity for NSU to offer something like this, Ford said.
“It’s been a fun summer seeing all the campers on campus,” she said.
Her son, Hunter, is signed up for the science camp starting July 15.
“He loves to do experiments, so I figure that’s right up his alley,” Ford said.
Another parent, J’Dene Rogers brought son Sammy Gagnon from Muskogee for the camp.
“He’s been in a very wonderful inclusion program at Boulevard Christian School with Hope Kid’s Outreach, for special needs kids. He loves music, and he loves to sing and dance and be on the stage,” Rogers said.
Exercise is another reason Rogers enrolled her son in the camp.
“I’m excited for him to get out and meet more kids, he’s missed school and his friends this summer,” she said.
As the morning break ended, and the campers headed back inside to learn more of the routine.
“My hope is, by picking really popular movies they know and like, they’ll play them at home and can do the little dance routines they learn this week,” said Copeland.
It’s not too late to sign up for camps. Parents or grandparents can call Continuing Education at (918) 444-4610 or they can register online.