Steamboat Springs "Once upon a time, there was a mask. The mask lived with the sky and with the Earth."
So begins the West African story of Mody, a boy who leaves his village for the city.
"The story is about the spirit of the dance," Robin Getter said. Getter found the story on the shelves of children's bookstore in Africa. She had the book translated from French to English and will be using it this summer as the focus of the second annual Summer Arts Immersion Program for Kids.
"The mask danced with the moon, with the stars and with the sun ... I am the mask. And I am always alive. I spin like the wind; I bound like the antelope; I dance with the farmers."
When Mody gets to the city, he is scared by the cars and the strangers. He feels lonely surrounded by buildings and crowded sidewalks. But the mask is still there.
"Do not forget me," the mask said. "If you lose your way in the city, or if you feel sad, call me and I will guide your way."
Children ages 5 to 15 who sign up for the arts immersion program will write a play, design costumes, paint the set and perform the story of "Mody and the Dance of Life" this July in the Strings in the Mountains tent.
The program begins June 16 and runs four mornings a week for five weeks. Registration opened Monday with places for 30 children.
Near the end of the program, guest artist Fara Tolno, a master drummer from Guinea, will join the group as an artist in residence.
"Mody and the Dance of Life" is the continuation of a program held last year by the Steamboat Springs Arts Council's Kaleidoscope Program. The children designed and performed a version of "The Lion King."
"Last year, the kids already knew the story and the music, but this year will be a little harder because the story is new to them," Getter said. "It's a lot of pressure putting this together in five weeks, but it's a lot of fun."
The children will get to play jungle animals and dance to African music for the beginning of the story, when Mody is growing up in his village. When Mody leaves for the city, children will change characters to make the sounds of traffic and dance to hip hop music.
"In our culture, music is separate from life," Getter said. "In Africa, it is used for everything. It is used to motivate workers in the fields and to communicate rites of passage in people's lives.
"This type of dance has more athletic with more natural movements. Children have to memorize the steps, but the techniques are mutations of things from life. The source of the movement is life experience."
Getter will instruct the program with Kay Wagner from Strings in the Mountains, art educators Chula Walker-Griffith and Krissy Adducci, and Wendy Smith Mikelsons from children's danceworks.
Classes run 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, from June 16 to July 11 in Robin Getter's new Center for the Movement Arts, 1104 Lincoln Ave.
The program costs $325 per child with discounts for additional siblings.
To register, or for more information, call Erin at 879-9008.
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