David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
WATERTOWN -- The young dancers expressed different emotions – anger, happiness, joy, sadness – with their bodies. They did the sasa, a traditional seated dance from Western Samoa, clapping their knees, hands, and shoulders, and pounding on the floor to the beat of a drum.
And in between, the students from the Perkins School for the Blind smiled, laughed, got silly, and generally hooted and hollered, in the school's tiny, 100-year-old gymnasium this morning.
Sixteen students, ages 7 to 14, attended a dance workshop for more than an hour by the New Zealand-based Black Grace Dance Company, which is in Boston for a series of performances. Black-clad troupe members joined the kids as they went through a series of exercises.
"It's a type of dancing I've never even heard of before. It was great stuff," said Brian McCauley, 14.
School officials say dance can help blind children practice balance and a sense of moving through space, and others skills such as cooperation, listening, and following instructions.
Black Grace founder and artistic director, Neil Ieremia, 39, led the workshop, patiently putting the students through their paces, then thumping a colorful drum to lead the sasa and a brief performance at the end by his own dancers. He said he does a lot of work with children in New Zealand, but this was his first workshop for the blind.
"It's just rewarding when you actually see kids spark up, light up," said Ieremia. "It's great to be able to contribute."
The general reaction among the students seemed to be one of great satisfaction, though one blurted out in a question-and-answer session, "I like no dance moves at all. I want to leave!"
Cullen Gallagher, 12, saw it differently. "I loved it. I loved the drumming and everything," he said.
Asked if he thought it got a little loud sometimes – one or two smaller students put their hands over their ears – Gallagher said, "So? I blast loud music all the time at home."
On the beat
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