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Improving physical literacy with Confi-dance Mini Camp

posted Aug 7, 2018, 9:20 AM by Kathy Carr
It’s no secret that young people today are being deprived of opportunities for physical literacy. A recent report com­piled by Healthy Together Now cites that not only is physical literacy imperative to a child’s physical development, but it also has a significant impact on their cognitive development as well, informing their ability to; process information, regulate emotions, problem solve and acquire new skills.  Phy­sical literacy alone is a very important piece of a child/adolescent’s development, so imagine an opportunity for physical literacy that not only inspires children to engage but also allows them to experience and understand other cultures in a way that leads them down the path of self discovery. 
Artistic director of Difini Dance Studio Productions Stephanie A.E. Strugar is all too familiar with utilizing cultural dance to get kids in touch with their bodies, emphatically connected to experiencing different cultures, and excited about striving with their peers toward a common goal. Step­hanie has been involved with a variety of community organizations in her home base of Winnipeg, helping to develop programming that engages groups such as; at-risk youth, newly arrived immigrants, and individuals of all ages with special needs and abilities.  She has always been passionate about celebrating diversity through her work with plus sized performers, being a plus sized performer herself she has always been interested in breaking the mold of audience expectations regarding what a beautiful performer should look and move like.  
When I first reached out to Stephanie in Sep­tember of 2017 about the possibility of her coming to Carberry to provide a summer program to local children and youth, and also mentor our local instructor Taylor Orc­hard who has steadily been developing programming for other surrounding communities, she immediately had me excited about what could be accomplished.  I was im­mediately drawn in by her energy, vision, and honesty.  When I gave her a clear picture of the op­portunities and needs I had identified within the community of Carberry within days she had the concept for Confi-dance Mini Camp worked out; a free program open to mothers and children of all ages using cultural dance, props, and an interactive/on demand for­mat that works with the needs and interests of participants in the moment. On Tuesday, July 24, when I obser­ved the two instructors working side by side; Step­hanie and local instructor Taylor Orc­hard, I was profoundly moved by how engaged and effected the kids were by working with these two talented ladies. The children who participated were so excited to try the variety of cultural dances they were presented with, when the emotion and meaning with regard to these dances was exp­lained; the execution seemed to reveal something unique about each child that wasn’t readily apparent when first meeting them.  Children I had known through the Carberry Plains Arts Council’s After School Arts program would light up and forget how cool they were as they fearlessly and un-self consciously threw themselves wholeheartedly into the choreography.  Taylor’s sweet and supportive instructional style beautifully contrasted Stephanie’s earnest and passionate immediacy. 
I attended the Mommy and Me in Motion class offered by the program with my autistic three year old and was amazed by how easily he connected with the other children when the ribbon props were introduced; the connection to the prop through movement seemed to momentarily liberate him from his sensory issues so he could be free to interact with the other children. The fun and fluid environment promoted by Stephanie Strugar and Taylor Orchard was just the kind of support I crave as a mother to a disabled child looking for opportunities to connect my child with his community.
I am so proud of the way Taylor Orchard has excelled through this journey with Stephanie A.E Strugar of Difini Dance Studio Produc­tions and also of the participants who invested everything they had in this opportunity for physical literacy, self-expression, and personal development.  Special thanks to Healthy Together Now and The Carberry and Area Com­munity foundation for their generous contributions to this valuable community programming.

by Amy Urquhart