Noe Valley Voice April 1998

Tiny Dancers Spread Their Wings and Fly

By Michele Lynn

As the strains of Pachelbel's Canon fill the air, six little dancers bend their knees in a graceful plié, following the lead of teacher Takami Craddock. The children-- who are too-too cute in their pink and black leotards and tights -- are enrolled in Craddock's Friday afternoon creative movement class, held in the second-floor studio at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez St.

For the past year and a half, Craddock has urged her students -- girls and boys, ages 3 to 10 -- to let their imaginations take flight through movement and dance.

"Blow up the balloon. Carry it up to the sky! Chase your balloon!" she calls out as the dancers lift and toss their invisible orbs. "Now fly like an airplane!"

When the airplanes turn back into kids again, she tells them to sit down and point their toes. Then she blows on their feet to "put them to sleep."

"I did it!" exclaims Katie after touching her feet to her head. "I did it too!" cries Emma. Craddock applauds the dancers' work, and shouts "Good job!" Broad smiles light up the youngsters' faces as they bask in the teacher's praise.

Craddock, 37 -- who has taught and performed as a dancer in her native Japan, as well as in New York and San Francisco-- mixes classical ballet and modern dance with her own creative movement techniques. "I want the children to enjoy moving their bodies," she says. "I let them have fun while they are still learning."

The children dance barefoot. "Basically, I'm a modern dancer [who usually dances without shoes]," says Craddock. "Dancing barefoot gives them more freedom to move. And it's important for their feet to feel the floor."

Fairmount Street resident Shawn Rosen-moss, whose 4-year-old Sophie has been dancing with Craddock for about a year, appreciates Craddock's approach. "There are a lot of ballet classes where 4-year-olds are lined up at the bar doing pliés. I don't really think that's appropriate."

But 31/2-year-old Emma Lanier of Castro Street just likes being TinkerBelle. "I like to do Butterfly Wings," she says, showing off her favorite stretching routine. "We get to sing 'Butterfly wings, butterfly wings/Fly through the sky...'"

Craddock says kids usually sign up for a series of one-hour classes, which meet once a week on Fridays. Beginning classes, for 3- and 4-year-olds, are held at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Classes for older children, ages 5 to 10, are at 4 p.m.

The cost is $70 for a nine-week half session, or $135 for a full 18 weeks. It's $8 to drop in for one class.

The dancers are on their own during the classes (moms and dads wait outside). But parents get to see their budding Martha Grahams perform at the end of the session and at a special recital in the spring. At a recent class, the dancers were abuzz as they tried on the flower-adorned tulle tutus and headbands they would be wearing in an upcoming performance.

The next session will start April 10 and run through Aug. 14. For more information, call Takami Craddock at 665-3914.