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’s because most schools have limited budgets so art, music, and drama classes are the first to go. But if you asked 4th and 5th graders at Woodlake Community Charter Elementary School what classes in the arts they take, a big smile comes onto their faces and they are happy to tell you.
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 24th, the school’s auditorium was packed with over 250 people, excited to see their children dance. The children were happy and filled with energy, while their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, and friends cheered them on! One parent, I was talking to was so delighted that she noticed her child’s posture had improved drastically from continuing to dance. She was very grateful for this program. This is only one example of so many wonderful things dance can do to improve our well-being.
The program was underway with a welcoming message from Principal, Mario Thompson. Erica explained to the audience how this was a 30-week course and we were celebrating the 15-week achievements on this night. She then introduced the Master of Ceremonies/DJ for the show, Artemi Okunev. Artemi happens to be Erica’s husband and a professional dancer himself. He did a great job of doing both functions flawlessly! And he is a wonderful dancer!
First to dance for us was Tiffany Cullen’s 4th-grade class doing the Hustle/Rumba
Second up was Kate Oltz’s 5th-grade class doing Syncopated Hustle/Salsa
Third was Christina Oseguera’s 4th-grade class doing the Rumba/Hustle
Fourth to dance was Irene Miramontez’s 5th-grade class doing the Salsa/Syncopated Hustle
Fifth to entertain was Kendra Barbula’s 4th-grade class doing the Rumba/Hustle
And last but not least was Alexandra Williams 5th-grade class doing Salsa/Syncopated Hustle
I only have words of praise on how skillfully each of these classes danced. 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 danced 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 the time to explain about his and Erica’s other dance program, “Dancing With Your Kids.” It’s a dance program designed for
Artemis Okunuv, Host 1-24-18, Photo by Alex Havasi
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.
Marilyn Fordney then spoke after seeing all the performances and commented how pleased she was to see so much happiness and joy fill that room. She explained who and what the Fordney Foundation is and does. The Fordney Foundation writes blogs every week done by me, Freddie Brock and edited by Marilyn Fordney, on all dance subjects. We leave nothing out; we explore all avenues of dance. Recently, we’ve been asked by Dance Beat, DanceWeek and the
Dance Benefits Group to write articles for them. We are growing and expanding. Our foundation has reached high levels of dancing honors in at least 40 represented competitions, with dancers across the U.S. receiving high rankings on the Leader Board and cash giveaway
prizes. Top 10 awardees in Latin and Standard can win as much as $4,000 a
couple for winning first place. We keep on adding new categories of competition such as “Team Match,” “Best of the Best,” and “Top Studio.” We are proud to represent music in partnering with a pro music producer who is a ballroom dance music expert. He has created a unique ballroom dance music CD this year to be sold both in the United States and Europe. The wonderful thing about this CD is, for every one purchased, our foundation will receive a percentage of the royalties. This is where we get the money to put into the DREAM program so it can continue to grow. Mrs. Fordney is looking forward to seeing you all in late May, where we will be able to congratulate you by giving out medals for all of your great dancing, practice, and hard work throughout the year!
We wish to thank every one of our children for their great performances. We thank all the teachers for their continued support.
A special shout out to teachers Tiffany Cullen, Kendra Barbula and Christina Oseguera for being there, we appreciated it! A special thank you to Principal Mario Thompson for allowing us to be part of his school curriculum. We give a big shout out to Suzi Luet 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 all that helped out on this night! 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.”
Audience at 1-24-18 Showcase, Photo by Alex Havasi
If you would like to help many more children to learn to ballroom dance, contribute to our DREAM program. Go to www.fordneyfoundation.org and click on the “Donate” tab and scroll down to “Go Fund Me” button or you can send a check directly to the foundation at the address that appears on the website at the end of that page.
Thought Of The Week: