AT FIRST the boys are self-conscious. They are doing what their dance teacher instructs them to do - stretching their arms and legs out into space - but they're holding back a bit, reserving their enthusiasm, being cool.
Caren Carino strides through their midst, jumping and shouting, beating two sticks, bouncing to the music."Now attack the air. Like a punch. Like a kick. Yes, yes, yes. Shake it. SHAKE it. Really move! Yes, your knees are meant to bend. MORE energy. Nice balance, guys! Let's concentrate. Yes."
The boys are smiling now. These Glendale Junior High School students have sweet, childish grins, which belie the truth: They are almost men. Their feet, waving about in the air, seem huge. And they are tall. They tower over Carino.
"This is my favorite class," she says.
She has them running now. Then stopping quickly. Finally she has all their enthusiasm and energy directed to the task at hand. Still, these strong young boys don't have the energy she has.
Carino is a dancer with Ririe Woodbury. Under a grant from the Utah Arts Council's program to bring artists to the schools, Carino will be at Glendale for two weeks, working with four gym classes each day.
The other classes are all-girl classes. The girls, though they are less intimidated by the word "dance," are even more self-conscious than are the junior high boys, she says.
Carino, however, understands. She has taught children of all ages in her home state of Hawaii, and while traveling with Ririe Woodbury, she has conducted classes throughout the United States and abroad.
"I try to relate everyday activity to the classroom. Boys, especially, relate to sports."
So Carino assigns them to think about five different movements, and when they come to class the next day they will have to show her a dribble or a pass or a swing or a serve, and she must be able to discern from what sport the movement comes.
"You have to be very specific when you give directions," she says. "If you start with very structured directions, it gives the boys some material to work with. Then they'll start to bring themselves into the movement. They'll be creative.
"The first day I met these boys I talked to them about concentration, commitment, and I tell them dance is different from sports in that there is no competition. I'm interested in them as individuals.
"As a teacher, you have to discover what works for you. There is no prescribed way to teach dance. I try to keep the class very energetic.
"High energy is my style, my way of captivating.
"I'm small. So if there is a table, I'll stand on it, jump off it. I use my voice. I've learned to portray that I am not their playmate, that I'm there to work with them. This is fun, but it's also education."
The boys' gym teacher is Paul Szugye. He says when he first told his students a dance teacher was coming they weren't too happy. "They were thinking of having to dance with each other. Or with girls. At this age they don't like that," says Szugye.
"Day one, I walked in there, and they had all this anxiety," says Carino. "They had a preconceived idea of what dance is. But right away they eased up."
They are having so much fun right now, Carino says, that she figures the guys don't even know they're dancing.
Arts in the schools
Caren Carino is one of 80 artists working in Utah schools this year, according to Tay Haines, assistant coordinator for the arts in education program at the Utah Arts Council.
"We have artists from all disciplines," Haines says. "Writing, dance, music, theater and visual arts."
This year, artists in the schools have:
-Completed 120 residencies - half in schools along the Wasatch Front, half in rural schools.
-A $300,000 budget, much of which comes from the National Endowment for the Arts.
-The philosophy that a fully developed artist provides a role model for students and teachers. While they are in a school, the artists hold a training session for the teachers, talking about ways of incorporating the creative process into the curriculum.
Artists also involve the community at least once while they are at the school, so that parents can see the value of creativity, says Haines.