Fox Run students take a lesson from the pros

Norwalk Dance Academy instructor Kathy Fleurissaint, left, demonstrates her craft to Fox Run Elementary School students during the school''s

Norwalk Dance Academy instructor Kathy Fleurissaint, left, demonstrates her craft to Fox Run Elementary School students during the school''s



Hour Staff Writer

Tava Auslan had exactly six minutes to achieve the impossible: coax a group of 7- and 8-year-old boys to bellydance and, dare say, enjoy themselves.

"When we tell them they're going to learn bellydancing next, they're like, 'Ugh,' at first," explained Kristin Clemens, a parent who volunteered Friday to supervise students during the annual "Celebration of the Arts" at Fox Run Elementary.

Throughout the morning, groups of students spent six-minute intervals with local artists who were stationed around the gymnasium. For the boys, Clemens said, bellydancing seemed like it could last an eternity.

"But then they get started," she said. "Look -- it's great to watch. They realize it's fun. It's a wonderful way to express themselves, and they're absolutely fantastic."

As proof, she points to a couple of boys on the fringe of their second-grade class. The students are facing Auslan and her husband, Pete, as she swivels her hips, and he plays the doumbek drum. At first, the boys are blasé; they couldn't care less, since bellydancing is totally for girls. Then suddenly, like magic, they're off.

As one boy walks away, he wipes his forehead with the back of his hand and says to his friend, "That was tough."

Auslan was one of nine local artists who visited Fox Run to demonstrate their particular areas of expertise, expose the students to a gamut of creative outlets and teach a lesson along the way.

"It opens doorways for the students," said parent Tracy Gulick, who coordinated the event with parent Donna Hewitt. "It lets them know that nothing should be out of reach, out of grasp."

Throughout the morning, all of the school's 460 students had a chance to experience the wonders of classical music, caricature drawing, filmmaking, scrapbooking, Taekwon-do, hip-hop dancing, silhouetting, the saxophone and, of course, bellydancing.

Each artist had a different spin on his or her six minutes, too. Caricaturist Barbara Haeger, from Redding-based company Paint, Draw and More, wowed students by churning out one or two cartoon impressions per visit. Choreographer Kathy Fleurissaint, from Norwalk Academy of Dance, taught students a short, fun routine with plenty of hand-waving, head-nodding and spinning.

"I loved that class," said 8-year-old Summer Hall, walking to the next station.

Lots of students were intrigued by Master Brice Bishop, chief instructor at the Norwalk Taekwon-do Academy, whose station reverberated with the sound of students screaming Hi-ya!

"I'm predicting the best station will be karate," said Hewitt's 8-year-old son, Chase, as he glanced at group of his peers entering a front-stance and kicking as high as they could.

Filmmaker Patrick McCullough, from Filmmakers Ink, took a more philosophical approach. As a group of second-grade students climbed the stairs to his station, ensconced backstage, he told them to ignore the two televisions nearby.

"Today, I'm going to teach you how to listen," he said. "It's one of the most important things you do as a filmmaker, but it's also important to do as a human being."

The students played a game of telephone, and McCullough encouraged them to take a moment in the future to sit quietly, close their eyes and identify the sounds around them.

"I teach kids to focus their attention off themselves, onto the world around them," he said. "By doing that, their talent gets a chance to live."