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C'mon get rhythm
Instructor makes right moves during second trip to Naujaat

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Waves of rhythm swept across the halls of Tusarvik School with the return of Royal Winnipeg Ballet School freestyle battle dancer Eugene (GeNie) Baffoe to Naujaat this past month.

NNSL photo/graphic

Dance instructor Eugene Baffoe works with Grade 3 students at Tusarvik School in Naujaat this past month. - photo courtesy of Julia MacPherson

Vice-principal Julia MacPherson said the school worked with the hamlet to secure funding for Baffoe's trip.

She said the hamlet sponsored Baffoe to come to Naujaat, so Tusarvik could host a series of dance workshops for a second straight year.

"He came just before Christmas break in 2015, but he was really busy this year, so we couldn't get him until the end of January," said MacPherson.

"I had a chance to take him to the popular Whale Bone Beach by Ski-Doo, just as the sun was going down on the Sunday he arrived.

"He started teaching the next day, on Jan. 25, and spent four days running dance classes at the school.

"He spent time with every grade at Tusarvik during his visit."

MacPherson co-ordinataed Baffoe's schedule with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School to maximize his time in Naujaat.

She said it was decided he would hold dance classes during times the students would normally be taking their gym class.

"He slowly taught the kids how to dance during the four days and on the final day we held a finale with kindergarten to Grade 3 kids in one group, Grade 4 to Grade 6 kids in another and grades 7 to 12 in a third.

"Each group did their warm-up and then put everything together for their final dance."

Baffoe also did some inspirational speaking during his time at Tusarvik.

MacPherson said he talked about being respectful, listening well, working hard and staying active with the younger kids.

She said, with the older students, he used his own personal journey in dance to talk to them about fulfilling their dreams.

"He told the kids he never thought he'd be able to make a career out of something he loved doing.

"He was kind of just practising some dance outside a building with a friend, when he was noticed by some people from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.

"They asked if he was interested in auditioning for a role of some sort that involved dancing.

"He got the job and the rest is history with him now running his own dance crew, being an instructor with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and travelling around the country."

MacPherson said Baffoe used his week of dance as a metaphor for the students piecing together the parts of their own dance of life.

She said it was an emotional message that hit home with a lot of the students.

"A lot of the kids really took it to heart and you could see he was quite overwhelmed by their response.

"He couldn't believe how some of them remembered him so well that they noticed he had new dancing sneakers.

"They made signs for him in Inuktitut and English that said Tusarvik loves to dance.

"It was a wonderful visit, and we're going to meet in about a week to look at our options to get him back up here again next year, maybe even with a partner."

Grade 9 student Jack Kopak said many of the kids didn't want Baffoe to leave, and they hope he can come back again next year.

He said watching Baffoe dance was neat because he's a really good and cool dancer.

"I've been dancing since Grade 7 and I have an interest in hip hop," said Kopak.

"I like to dance at home and I'll be able to take some of the moves Eugene taught me to use in the future.

"Eugene told us doing small things, like in dance, can often lead to bigger things, like opportunities to take dancing further in our lives, so I'm hoping to visit the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School to learn more about dance and see what else they do there."

Grade 3 student Peter Tinashlu said Baffoe taught him how to dance.

He said his favourite move was to say, "pose," so he could do what he wanted.

"He taught us to be healthy, stay in school and dance," said Tinashlu.

"My sister is in Grade 6 and we dance at home, doing some of the moves Eugene taught us. I really want him to come back and teach me again."

Grade 7 student Cassandra Kripanik said her favourite parts of Baffoe's classes were when he taught them the whip and the stanky leg.

She said she always wanted to be right up front so she could hear Baffoe well.

"He is so cool," said Kripanik.

"I'm dancing at home and I'm still practising the moves Eugene taught us.

"He almost gave up when his sister was teaching him how to moonwalk because it's really hard, but he didn't.

"He's telling us not to give up and to do what we love."

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