montana photographs Bynum Dancing
As the school year winds down, I wanted to share these pictures I made while working with Al Kesselheim up in northern Montana.
Bynum is pretty small. Twenty kids comprise the entire student body at the Bynum School.
But every morning for 80 years or more, each and every one of those kids dances.
Al and I happened to visit when the school was entertaining visitors from nearby Choteau. The dancing is done in an old Methodist Church next door to the school.
Susan Luinstra is the head teacher at the school and she’s the energy behind the dancing today. But she says the idea was hatched by her predecessor and mentor, Ira Perkins, who said that no matter what misery a child might be enduring outside of school, a half-hour of dancing would shake off all of the bad. During the Great Depression, Perkins mandated that every Bynum School student would learn to dance and to play a musical instrument or sing.
Perkins taught at the Bynum School for 50 more years before Mrs. Luinstra took over. She carried on the tradition and never changed the music. Kids dance to old 78 records from the 1930s and learn to waltz, foxtrot and polka.
“Music and dance are the best things we do,” Mrs. Luinstra says. “I don’t have the data, but I know it in my bones. The arts bring the whole child together. Dance and music exercise different parts of the brain, make connections work better. Students are comfortable with each other here as a direct result.”
See these on my website.
What a joy to see this work! I totally agree that the arts are sorely missing in our children’s world. I’m reminded of “Asphalt Jungle”and “Rocky”. Great job.
I went to school in Bynum. It was one of the best experiences of my life. This was in the 1970s/80s. (I’m so old I don’t remember when I went there). We would dance every morning before school and have to brave the cold walk to the gym to do our gymnastics. REAL gymnastics. Susan Gauthier (sp) Luinstra and Ira Perkins and his superior family left indelible marks on me. Ask her about the Happy Days Board Game! Thank you for posting this.
Thanks for the comment, Diana!