If you asked most 4th and 5th graders in L.A. schools, what classes they take in the arts, most of them will say, “well none.” That is because most schools have limited budgets and things like art, music, and drama classes are always the first to go, if they were even there to begin with. But if
you asked 4th and 5th graders at Colfax Charter Elementary School what classes in the arts they take, a big smile will come onto their faces and they will be happy to tell you. Colfax Charter even created a banner that is posted on their chain link fence for all to see in honor of the Fordney Foundation!
You see, these students are lucky to be in a school that acknowledges the arts. And
the 4th and 5th-grade classes are happy that they know Marilyn Fordney! Marilyn Fordney is a professional in the academic world who also loves the arts. Mrs. Fordney believes in paying it forward and thinks children should have the opportunity to be part of the art/creative world. Mrs. Fordney is contributing to the welfare of children and the arts. She has provided the availability for students to learn to dance. Most grade schools do not have dance programs. In doing so, Mrs. Fordney came to know, a talented, professional dancer, who also believes that children can have fun learning to dance in school and loves teaching it to them. This lovely lady is Erica Arnold Okunev. Together, these two ladies formulated a plan and saw their passions come to fruition by creating the DREAM program.
DREAM is a non-profit program that teaches ballroom dance to children and to: Discover, Respect, Express, Achieve, Motivation. You can follow the DREAM program on: Facebook – @dreamdanceprogram, Instagram – @dreamdanceprogram and Twitter – @DREAMdanceprog.
Knowing all this, let me tell you that on January 25th, the school’s auditorium was packed with over 300 people divided between the 4th and 5th grade shows, excited to see their children dance! The first to perform was the 4th graders with the 5th graders performing after them at a later time. All the children were happy and filled with energy, while their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents and friends cheered them on! I really saw a camaraderie and friendship bond with these students, especially with the 5th graders, it was really beautiful! That made a strong impression on me. This is only one example of so many wonderful things that can happen when we love what we do and dance!
The program was underway with a welcoming message from Principal, Robyn Friedman.
Erica explained to the audience how this was a 30-week course and we were celebrating the 15-week achievements on this night. She was especially proud of the children because due to four weeks of missed lessons due to school closures, these students were still performing at only 11 weeks. She then introduced the Master of Ceremonies for the show, Artemi Okunev. Artemi happens to be Erica’s husband and a professional dancer himself. He did a great job as an MC! And he is a wonderful dancer too, as we found out a little later on. Artemi complimented the adults in the audience for “how good their children looked.” Michael Urshansky was our DJ for the evening, also a dancer himself and we really appreciated his help.
4th Grade Classes:
First to dance for us was Teresa Maynes 4th grade class, Room 25, doing the Hustle/Rumba
Second up was Sarah Howe’s 4th grade class, Room 21, doing Rumba/Hustle
Third was Anya Hulett’s 4th grade class, Room 23, doing the Salsa/Syncopated Hustle
And last but not least was Bridget Bett’s 4th grade class, Room 22, doing Rumba/ Hustle
5th Grade Classes:
First to dance for us was Meghan Hanlon’s 5th grade class, Room 17, Syncopated Hustle/Salsa
Second up was Anya Hulett’s 5th grade class, Room 23, doing Salsa/Syncopated Hustle
Third to dance was Gail Craven’s 5th grade class, Room 19, doing Syncopated Hustle/Salsa
All the students were enthusiastic and entertaining, doing their dances very well. The audience truly reflected on this with all the cheering and applause after all the performances.
Next, we got a special treat when Artemi did a Pro/Am dance with one of his and Erica’s students’, Anna Gilichensky. They were doing a Cha Cha to the hit song, “Havana.” We all loved it and everyone clapped loudly for them!
We then got a special Pro Performance when Erica and Artemi performed a cool Jive routine to Queen’s rendition of, “A Little Thing Called Love.” We can see why
Erica and Artemi are professional dancers, they were smashing out there and we all loved it, especially the kids!
Artemi took time to explain about his and Erica’s other dance program, “Dancing With Your Kids.” It’s a dance program designed for mothers, fathers, grandparents, kids, etc., to learn how to ballroom dance. It is an 8-week course and at the end of the course, you get to
perform at the DREAM year-end showcase! They also offer an “Expansion Program” of evening classes if you want to learn to dance Ballroom, Contemporary, Ballet, Hip Hop and Tap. If any of this interests you, contact Erica Arnold at: 801-631-6633 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We wish to thank every one of our children for their great performances. We thank all the teachers for their continued support. A special thank you to Principal Friedman, for allowing us to be part of her school curriculum. We give a big shout out to Nickie Bryer for her hard work as Yearbook Coordinator. We thank Artemi Okunev for a job well done in so many areas! Thank you too, Anna Gilichensky for coming to dance for us! You were great! We love all of these super photos taken by Mr. Alex Havasi and thank him for his hard work. Thank you to everyone who donated their
time to help us this evening. Special shout outs to Loren Silverman, Monet Pinkett, Maya Urshansky, Michael Urshansky and their mothers, Galina Silverman, Maria Pinkett and Svetlana Urshansky for your friendship and always being there for us! Thank you, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends for supporting these children by showing up. That means and says a lot! We stand up and applaud Erica Arnold Okunev for the marvelous work she does with the children. The show could not go on without you! And a special “thank you for being you,” Mrs. Marilyn Fordney, “who gives from her heart and does so much to spread joy.”