Kids got rhythm 

Do you have toddlers who love the sound of their own voice? Do you have wee ones who are drawn to banging pots and pans? Children’s love of sound and movement is completely natural and a new class in town is encouraging its development.

Rhythm and Move is part of the fall curriculum of the newly-formed Whistler Dance Society. The class focuses on pre-schoolers and expression through percussion, song, dance and movement. Organizers don’t expect to turn out Karen Kanes overnight, but the enthusiasm the class instils can certainly carry through a critical time in the youngsters’ development.

"The earlier you start, the better time of it you have later," explains Dance Society Creative Director, Trina Eby. "It’s a stage that is often missed. It’s surprising. They can learn very quickly. They’re better at picking up music and following along than they are at talking."

"Children have a love to move and dance and make lots of noise," agrees instructor Michelle Fulford.

A mother of a three year old, Fulford developed the program simply from what she knew her son needed at that age. Song and rhythm starts the course, with music always playing as students enter the room. The first day begins with a round table song that introduces the names of all the participants. Percussion instruments are used to build up the energy and demonstrate rhythm.

"I believe that rhythm is the heartbeat of life," Fulford adds. "Kids hear rhythm when they’re in the womb. They hear us talking. Everything is a rhythm to them. It’s instinctive."

The dance component of the 12-week course is strictly improvisational, with lots of stretches and movement dictated by the ability of each child. Fulford likes to use actions found in nature to stimulate the toddlers’ imagination.

"For example, I might say ‘What does a leaf look like when it’s falling, or what does a bird look like flying?’ Hopefully it’s something that they can all relate to," says Fulford.

Although parents are always in attendance, the fun and games are strictly for the kids. However, parents are asked to pay close attention and take home the lessons to promote learning outside of class. Fulford taught her son his home phone number through "The Lost Song." With a little creativity, children can remember just about anything, especially at this impressionable age. The trick is to make learning interesting.

The 45-minute classes begin next week. The cost for the entire program is $90. To register or for more information, call Trina Eby at 604-935-0200. Rhythm and Move is also looking for drums, shakers and anything that might be of use for the classes. Donations can be dropped off at MY Place.

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