Dance production teaches African American history

February 25, 2009 9:22:45 AM PST
On stage at Gary's West Side High School, a magical tree has become the doorway to lessons in African American history. Passing through it are students of the Dancexcel Creative Arts Center founded by Dionne Champion, who quit as an Eastman Kodak chemical engineer to be a dance teacher.

"What I find actually running Dancexcel and working with the kids is that there are many opportunities I can use my engineering skills, my problem-solving skills," said Champion.

An African village is the first stop on the mythical journey, which leads to capture by slave traders. Champion and associate director Sherice Grant wrote the story: the spirit of the baobab tree.

"Students, they just don't get enough exposure to their history, and so I thought that it was very important that they know where they came from, so that they would know where they're going," Grant said.

This production, now it its third year, involves 45 youngsters, ages 7 to 18, along with four adults.

Now, from the stage production the spirit of the baobab tree has become a book, recently published.

"It feels great because I'm also a writer so to finally have a piece of my work published, it's an overwhelming experience, it's great," said Grant.

The stage production features a scene on a slave ship, along with the evolution to a modern day church.

"People seem to be touched and moved by the story, and it's something people can enjoy of all ages from two years up all the way to 80 or 90," said Champion.

To learn more about the book and the production log on to www.myspace.com/dancexcel


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