By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Seventh- and eighth-graders at Tupelo Middle school received a special treat on Friday.
Italian, Peruvian and Egyptian dance teams took the stage to show off their heritage.
Sponsored by the Yocona International Folk Festival, the program encouraged students to “preserve their culture, learn about it and carry it on.”
The Italian performance was fun and engaging, while the Peruvians played their own music with exotic instruments native to their homeland.
The Egyptian act was a solo show in which the dancer spun in circles for 20 minutes without pause, flaring and manipulating an elaborate skirt.
“He went off,” said seventh-grader Dymarquez Collins of the Egyptian dancer.
Collins’ friend Cardale Eichelberger felt immersed in the South American Rainforest because the Peruvian instruments – drums, rain sticks, and pan flutes – mimicked the sounds of the jungle.
Seventh-grade history teacher Eileen Bailey said seeing culture was an invaluable experience for students.
“I can go over it in the classroom, but nothing beats the real thing,” she said.
The Tupelo School District is an arts-integrated district, which means that in every subject, arts are injected into instruction in some form.
“The arts are crucial to a well-rounded curriculum,” said Kristy Luse, principal at TMS.
The Italian troupe visited Bailey’s class first. They taught students a basic Italian dance and answered questions about Italian culture, such as how Italian schools are different and what sports Italians like best.
The group was headed by siblings Mark and Lisa DeSanctis. The two grew up in Wisconsin with full-blooded Italian parents.
“When our dad would get angry, he would revert to speaking Italian,” Mark DeSanctis said, laughing.
This was the group’s first performance under the Yocona International Folk Festival.
“We are enamored with the Italian culture,” said Lisa DeSanctis. “We hope to inspire people to dig into their own background and be proud of where they come from.”