CUYAHOGA FALLS — The third-graders at DeWitt Elementary School watched intently as Erica Piper, a lead teaching artist with Art Sparks, directed them through a series of high-energy dance moves and songs. When they were still (which was uncommon), the students’ attention was unwavering; but when they were moving through the choreography and singing, their energy and excitement was palpable.

The children performed for about a half hour for Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-28) on Friday, Dec. 8. They not only showed off their dance moves, but their knowledge of water, water cycles and the Cuyahoga River. The young dancers strove for perfect posture and making “crunchy fingers” while avoiding “soggy arms” and slumping.

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Sykes said he was impressed by what he saw.

“I always wanted to dance, but I was always a little clumsy,” Sykes said. “If I had something like this as a third-grader, I’d be a better dancer.”

Art Sparks, which visits schools in Summit, Portage and Cuyahoga counties, offers several music and dance-related programs for children in preschool through eighth grade.

“We teach dance, and we teach life skills,” said Kara Stewart, executive and artistic director as well as co-founder. “This theme is water based. We want students to be their best, so we show them how to be their best. If they’ve never seen their best, how can they know?”

Part of the brief program was a snippet from what will be the finale for an April 26 performance at Cuyahoga Falls High School, which will involve 400 third-graders from several area districts, Stewart said.

“Every third-grader and TNT will be on stage,” Piper said. “It’s quite a sight to see.”

TNT, or Top Notch Performers, was created in the past spring, which is an advanced performance group selected from the in-school residencies, according to information from the Art Sparks website.

For details on Art Sparks, visit https://www.artsparksdance.org/ online.

ahelms@recordpub.com

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