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In De Yard Takes Students Around the Maypole and Across West Indian Culture

Jan. 30, 2008 — From preschoolers singing songs with local storyteller Gilbert Sprauve to eighth graders learning how to make a bat-pan bass out of a deep steel bucket and broomstick, the second annual In De Yard jamboree was a hit Wednesday with about 500 students from across the St. Thomas-St. John district.
Meant to expose local youth to various aspects of the territory's rich history and culture, the event, sponsored by the Reichhold Center for the Arts, brought together students from 13 public and private schools, including volunteers from the University of the Virgin Islands, said Karen Gutloff, the center's marketing manager.
"We're so happy to have this kind of participation," she said. "Because In De Yard is really a cultural day, a day that we set aside to help link the youth with the elders in the community who are so knowledgeable about where we come from. This is our way of having our culture on display — it's so important for our youth to be aware of what our culture is so they can help keep it alive."
Starting off the festivities promptly at 9 a.m., members of the Cultural Heritage Dancers lined the Reichhold's stage, teaching students from the Ulla F. Muller Elementary School how to twirl their skirts to the quadrille and appreciate the meaning behind the dance.
"We're going to learn how to do two dance numbers," said instructor Edwin Davis, tapping his feet to the rhythm of quelbe music playing brightly in the background. "Many years ago, the slave owners, plantation owners, were from Europe and brought with them their music and culture and all of that, and the slaves copied them, and put their own twists to the music to make it real exciting."
Overlooking the stage from the top of the Reichhold's grounds, Camille "King Derby" Macedon taught a group from J. Antonio Jarvis Elementary the basics of banjo playing. Toward the entrance of the facility, local farmer Alphonso Wade III demonstrated to a group of students from Gladys Abraham Elementary the art of transforming a common, garden-variety squash — or bamboo stick — into a popular musical instrument called the guiro.
"I know it sounds weird," Wade said, while showing students how to hollow out the gourd. "But when it's complete, you can use a pick to make a high or low sound, depending on what the guiro is made of."
On another part of the center's grounds, students from the St. John School on Gifft Hill learned how to braid the maypole, weaving in and around each other to the sounds of Linda Greaux's quelbe music.
"This is the best event," said Jill Hale, Gifft Hill's third-to-fifth grade teacher. "Most of the kids got to participate in the group and it took a lot of cooperation, and a little song and dance, too."
Commenting on the entire event, Hale added that she was "impressed" by the number of activities throughout the grounds.
"It really was an enjoyable day," she said.
Speaking later, Gutloff described In De Yard as a prelude to the center's annual Playing Ring: A Fungi Jamboree concert, which kicks off at 8 p.m. Saturday at Reichhold. This year, the event will showcase bands from Puerto Rico, Anguilla and St. Croix, she said, and will be preceded by a cultural marketplace, serving local food and drinks from 6 p.m. on.
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