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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Butler students learn about the world through dance, food, art

Jun 29, 2023 02:56PM ● By Julie Slama

As part of World Night, Butler Elementary second-graders learned and performed an African dance under guest choreographer Yvonne Nsabimana Baraketse. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Butler Elementary parent Chelsea Budge’s second-grade daughter told her that she would be performing an African dance with her classmates at the school’s World Night.

While waiting for her dance, the family took in the different parts of the event.

“We like all the different activities here,” Budge said.

Nearby, parent Holly Robbins and her family were awaiting her kindergartner’s grade performance of “It’s a Small World” and her third-grader who, with friends, was to perform a Punjabi dance from India.

“We enjoy the music and performances and the good food,” she said, referring to the food trucks supplying international cuisine.

Other families watched their children in a Mexican, American and Maori dances on the main stage while the Butler alumni and students’ rock band performed on a small stage.

World Night has evolved through the years from an indoor opportunity to immerse in culture and art, which featured traditional world dances performed by Brigham Young University dancers, to more student engagement with Butler students performing worldwide dances.

For second-graders, it meant performing to “Mama Africa” by Kids United featuring artist Angelique Kidjo under guest choreographer Yvonne Nsabimana Baraketse.

Baraketse came weekly for two months to not only teach students the dance, but to help them learn about the culture of the Ivory Coast.

“A lot of the kids knew the song already and really like it because it spreads positivity energy,” she said. “Through this opportunity, the kids got to discover another country and they are able to really connect with others in Africa and learn about their culture and music. Now, they’re being in the shoes of African kids and they’re sharing the joy and light as they perform for their families.”

Baraketse immigrated from her homeland and founded the Utah County-based nonprofit Ngoma Y’Africa Cultural Center to spread awareness of African culture. She also teaches French and dance.

“I came as an international student, then I realized my culture could be a tool to help others learn about Africa,” she said. “I created the nonprofit as a way to support others who are African descent and are navigating the U.S. educational system and we can share the love of our culture with others. That is what we’re doing tonight, embracing the world around us and giving these students an introduction to our culture. That’s how we connect.”

That is another reason why Robbins appreciated World Night.

“It’s a big celebration at the end of the school year,” she said. “The whole community comes out and we have a lot of fun together.” λ