NEWCOMB - Students at Newcomb Central School were part-time dancers in Susan Slotnick's dance residency program last week.
Grades 3-12 worked daily with Slotnick and her longtime assistant and student Bethany Wootan on presentations of modern dance for a culmination performance presented on Sept. 17.
Slotnick is creative director of Figures in Flight, a modern dance company operating in Ulster, Dutchess and Saratoga counties of upstate New York.
"I don't remember when I started dancing," said Slotnick. "It has always been a part of my life."
The school residency program uses dance and theatre to prevent violence, promote tolerance and teach children to be compassionate as well as to practice kindness.
Figures in Flight also brings their residency program to men's prisons across New York State and are the only company in the world to have such a program.
Slotnick uses dance as a vehicle to teach concentration and listening skills in schools, stressing techniques such as posture and eye contact.
These methods make it possible for her students to learn their movements to perfection in a very small window of time.
"Everything they presented was learned in less than five hours," said Slotnick.
This is the third year that Slotnick has brought the dance residency program to Newcomb and she has the opportunity to work with the same students each year.
"It always surprises me how creative the children in this community are," she said.
Working with high school students is a challenge because the movements of modern dance often pull them way beyond their comfort zone, according to Slotnick.
The goal of the residency program is to challenge students to both think and step outside the box. There was no evidence of apprehension, however, as the high school group took the stage during their final performance. Male and female students alike danced with confidence.
"I want to dance for the rest of my life," said a student who performed in the elementary group.
Indian Lake Central School also welcomed Slotnick this year as they hosted their first residency program.
"In these small places, there is little opportunity for arts enrichment in the community, therefore the youth must be exposed to it within the school," said Slotnick.