Because They’re ‘Happy’

Recently, Bemus Point Elementary School students in grades 1-5 gathered in the school gymnasium, looking to show off to both their parents and to the Internet at large the dance routine they had spent over a month eagerly preparing.

The video they produced, consisting of a dance mob performance set to Pharrell Williams’s 2014 smash hit “Happy,” represents a culmination of the first year of dance classes being offered by Bemus Point Elementary as part of the curriculum to meet New York state physical fitness requirements. These classes were taught by Kasey Way, who also directed and choreographed the dance mob. According to Way, the students have been very enthusiastic about this new addition to the normal curriculum.

“It is going wonderfully,” Way said, noting that the program has been very well-received by students, parents and faculty alike.

The introduction of dance classes into the elementary students’ schedules can be seen as a way of meeting fitness requirements and promoting physical activity through means outside of what can be found in the typical physical education curriculum, drawing from other disciplines such as music to offer a new approach.

In instructing her students, Way draws from her experience as a music teacher, having frequently done choreography for her students’ concerts and musicals.

Way states that she got the idea for planning the performance from mentions of a dance mob contest on the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance.” Remembering this contest, held by National Dance Week Foundation and consisting of videos submitted by schools across the country, she decided that it would be a fun way to motivate her students.

The students prepared for the event by practicing for over a month, according to Way. Because of the large number of participants involved, the students were instructed on a class-by-class basis, only coming together for the first time on the day the performance was filmed. Dancing along with the students were members of Bemus Point Elementary faculty and staff.

When asked if she is planning on entering the contest again next year, Way responded: “I think it will turn out to be a new tradition.”

The 2014 Dance Mob Contest is being held by the National Dance Week Foundation, a non-profit organization whose goal is to spread greater awareness of dance as an art form. According to their website, the contest is meant to encourage dance as a way for people of all ages to “get active and lead a less sedentary lifestyle.” The dancers of Bemus Point Elementary School have the chance to be voted for by viewers in the Best Video category, for which they will be recognized by the foundation. They can additionally win awards in other categories as decided by the contest judges, with such categories including Most Creative and Best Spirit. To view the video and vote for the Bemus Point submission, the performance can be found at www.nationaldanceweek.org/picture-video/dance-mob-2014/videos/. Voting ends Monday, with the winners being announced the Week of June 23.