Students explore dance, storytelling with Homer artist

  • Third grade students in Krista Etzwiler’s class at West Homer Elementary act out an interpretive dance to the sound of artist Eddie Wood’s storytelling and percussion. From left to right: Ethan Drake, Carolynn Sheldon, Preston Stanislaw, Kaleb Worland, Hailey VanSandt, Cecelia Gray, Josh Rudolph, Diamond Ojeda, Miriah Gassler and Aiden Clark.-photo by Annie Rosenthal
  • Wood leads West Homer Elementary School teachers Erika Thompson, Sarah Hartmann, Barb Veeck, Ashley Hanson in an interpretive dance and percussion concert after the students’ performance Friday. The performances marked the end of Wood’s month-long artist residency at the school.-photo by Annie Rosenthal

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to show that Eddie Wood was at West Homer Elementary School for two weeks, not a month, from Nov. 2-13.

Long-time Homer artist Eddie Wood’s November residency at West Homer Elementary School culminated with a goofy, imaginative performance on Friday, Nov. 13, in the school gym. 

For two weeks, from Nov. 2-13, five classes of elementary school students worked with Wood to explore the intersection of music, storytelling and dance. Sometimes workshops began with a sound from an instrument and students responded by moving to the music, creating a story with their bodies. Other times, the young artists would tell stories  — about time-traveling scientists, alien parties, vacations to Hawaii — and then find songs and movements to fit.

“I’m older than dirt in Homer,” Wood joked to the assembled audience of students, families and teachers on the bleachers on Friday. “These guys keep me young.”

Each class of dancers had named themselves: one was “The Fat Fat Fluffy Robo-Seals,” another “Bouncin’ Bacon.” 

On mats in the middle of the gym, students in each of the five performances acted out a range of scenarios, from brushing their teeth with glow-in-the-dark paste to stomping around in shoes that could travel over any surface. They contorted their bodies and flopped around and leaped over one another, providing a visual representation of the stories that Wood told to the beat of various percussion instruments. 

The shekere, a beaded instrument, made the sound for cold and tap dancing. A pronged instrument called a waterphone represented space travel. A brass belltree kept time.

After all classes had performed, there was a surprise finale: West Homer teachers danced into the room playing instruments and performing a short interpretive dance. Students responded with laughter and applause.

“It makes me happy to remember when I was their age and I was challenged to do art and to dance and to tell a story,” said Wood after the performances, as parents shepherded their students out to cars to enjoy the Friday afternoon. “Being my hometown, it’s especially meaningful because I’ve had some of these kids’ parents as students. That connection is nice.”

Annie Rosenthal can be reached at annie.rosenthal@homernews.com.

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