In Burnt Hills, students dance with the pro

Who said summer classes have to include calculators, reading and writing?

At the O'Rourke Middle School in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake district, kids are leaping like gazelles, stomping like buffalo and spinning like birds in flight.

The summer enrichment academy/bridge program offered by the district gets kids out of the house (and out of bed) and into classes starting at 8:30 a.m.

As many as 100 middle school kids are in sessions lasting one or two weeks. Topics are broad and eclectic in keeping with a nontraditional summer learning environment.

The kids work so hard during the school year that we want them to have fun learning when school is out, said program coordinator Marie DiCristofaro, who works with co-coordinator Melissa Fiashetti.

Programs offered include time management, film criticism, the art of mask-making and a "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" book club. There's also a CSI Burnt Hills program for future forensic scientists.

One new class is the Mantis Project dance camp, an intensive one-week course taught by New York City choreographer Geoffrey Doig-Marx, recently named one of the "nine dance makers making history," by Dance Spirit magazine. He is a faculty member at Marymount Manhattan College, ARB's Princeton Ballet, The Lawrenceville School, Dance Emotions in Chappaqua, Performing Arts Center of Connecticut and The Pulse in Westchester. He is a member of Actors' Equity, and as a performer, appeared in Equity National tours and regional theater productions include "West Side Story," "Pippin," "Cabaret," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Jesus Christ Superstar."

"We are thrilled to have him with us," said DiCristofaro.

The seven girls and one boy in the dance program are quickly mastering the footwork of their performance called African Stampede.

This Friday, Aug. 3 at noon, the class will perform its routine in the middle school stage for parents, friends and dance fans.

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