By Wendy Brown, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsJuly 3, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (July 5, 2019) -- As Vera Bloomstrom, 4, leaped, twirled and skipped to Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling!" her mother took a cue from the song to describe how her daughter likes her new pre-K dance class.
"This is her third class. The first one she watched and didn't want to go in, but the second one she was ready, and now she can't stop," said Marena Bloomstrom at the SKIES Unlimited building at the Sagamihara Family Housing Area here June 27.
The class, a fusion of ballet and modern dance, is for children ages 3 to 5 and improves skill, strength and flexibility by teaching students how to dance freely, according to Teresa Brodsky, Camp Zama SKIES Unlimited director.
The program offers two classes on Thursdays at the SKIES Unlimited facility, one at 3:15 p.m. for beginners and another at 5 p.m. for advanced students, according to Brodsky.
In addition to dance skills, the class also helps children develop social skills, Brodsky said.
"It gives them an opportunity to make friends with other kids and just to be in a space with other kids doing an activity that's centered around what the teacher is teaching," Brodsky said.
The class also gives the children the opportunity to be creative, Brodsky said.
"The instructor is really good at that; she wants them to be creative," Brodsky said. "She gives them instructions, but lets them do it in their own creative way. She's really good with them."
In the June 27 class, Minori Uemoto, the class instructor, had the students dance around the room in a line, dance whichever way they wanted and then freeze, and do the "cat dance," where they pretended to be a cat waking up from a nap and danced like a cat.
Uemoto said that since it's a class for 3-to-5-year-old students, she focuses on creativity.
"I just try to find how I can open their ability for different ways of moving," Uemoto said.
Uemoto said she teaches her students simple moves, such as moving and stopping, flowing along a line or jumping along a series of stars on the floor.
"The 'freeze dance,' they like a lot," Uemoto said. "It's free movement and then when I say stop, they stop, and that's kind of their favorite one. I think they just like moving. They love dancing."
Kaleena Blake, 3, said her favorite part of the class is skipping, although she likes dancing overall.
Her mother, Rebecca Blake, said Kaleena has been taking the class for about six months and has learned a lot.
"I love that she just gets to go in and learn some new skills, and we really like the teacher, Ms. Minori," Blake said. "I just like that she looks forward to it every week and she takes responsibility for her shoes."
Likewise, Magen Rutherford, mother of Union Rutherford, 4, said her daughter has taken the class for about five months and has enjoyed it a lot.
"I like how much movement she gets to do," Rutherford said. "She expresses herself and the music is always fun. She had a dance recital recently; she was adorable."
Parents interested in the SKIES Unlimited program, which offers a variety of music, arts, martial arts and swimming classes for children ages 6 months to 18, can call DSN (315) 262-6137 or 011-81-46-407-6137 from overseas for more information. Parents must first register their children with Child and Youth Services to enroll them in SKIES Unlimited classes.