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K-State Today

September 28, 2016



Associate director of School of Music, Theatre, and Dance takes Tap to Togetherness international

By Sarah Hancock

Julie L. Pentz, associate professor of dance and associate director of the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, traveled to Ghana earlier this year to present Tap To Togetherness, a program that helps families engage children in developmentally appropriate ways that facilitate learning; lead Tap To Togetherness sessions; and teach jazz, ballet and teaching methods classes in three venues.

Pentz traveled with Bradford Wiles, assistant professor and extension specialist in the School of Family Studies and Human Services; Janice Schroeder, Manhattan Parents as Teachers parent educator; and Zach Weaver, associate producer/director in the Division of Communications and Marketing.

The visit began at the Dagara Music Center in the village of Medie. The director, Bernard Woma, introduced Pentz to the headmaster of a local school, who then allowed more than 100 children to participate in Tap to Togetherness sessions. Pentz was pleased with the vote of confidence from the school.

"It was such an honor and a moving experience to work with the young students at the local school in Medie and families at the Dagara Music Center," Pentz said.

The audience's serendipitous participation allowed Pentz to show how Tap To Togetherness provides specific strategies for adult-child interactions to extend thinking and learning, and helps families facilitate positive and developmentally appropriate learning and social outcomes for children.

While at the Dagara Music Center, Pentz also traveled to the National Theater of Ghana, where her jazz and tap performance inspired dancers there to perform for the K-State visitors. Pentz then moved on to the University of Ghana, where she taught a class and explained her work to dance faculty, who regularly do community outreach. Staff at the university called their students back from summer break to take her class. Many of the participants brought family members, and young children chose to join in when Pentz demonstrated Tap To Togetherness activities.

"My visits went extremely well. I expect to grow my relationship with both the National Theatre and the University of Ghana Dance Program, offering tap and jazz classes while also extending Tap To Togetherness to their community engagement programs," Pentz said.

The experience in Africa proved that Tap To Togetherness, which Pentz started in 2013 with help from the Manhattan Parents as Teachers program, fosters positive family interactions regardless of cultural differences.

"The problems in Ghana are the same as here in that parents are distracted and on screens, but dance brings everyone together and builds interactions," Pentz said. "The groups can come in at the end of the day and they may be tired after a long day, but tap energizes everyone." 

An added perk of the visit to the Dagara Music Center was participation in a local tradition. When universities visit, they are offered a wall to paint, so Pentz and her group left their mark.

Future plans for the project include a visit to Kuwait in January 2017. In October, Pentz also will present her work at the National Dance Educators Organization conference in Washington, D.C., and at the National Parents as Teachers conference in St. Louis, Missouri, as she works to extend the program's national and international reputation.

"Tap to Togetherness is K-State at its best, taking our work within the university and reaching out locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. This kind of international impact is the source of our aspiration to be a top research institution," said Jeffrey Ward, director of the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

Pentz's travel was supported by the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, a Faculty Development Award from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs in fall 2015, and an International Incentive Grant from the Office of International Programs.

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