Ballet and books

West Tisbury library connects books and real life for kids.

Ballet, books, and fun — that’s what’s up at the West Tisbury library in September. Whether you Zoom in from your backyard or inside, it’s open to children ranging from 18 months to 8 years old. And no experience is necessary, just enthusiasm and a willingness to move.

Via the wonders of technology, Shannon Murphy (a.k.a. Miss Shannon), who is a graduate of the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City, where she studied classical ballet and dance education, says she will start the class with some stretching and songs. The class will move on to some traditional ballet technique, as well as some light choreography, and end with a ballet-themed picture book.

“Because the general population of the class is expected to be younger, we needed to make sure that the books are easy to engage even the youngest student,” Murphy explained. “The books we use will be ‘Fancy Nancy: Budding Ballerina’ by Jane O’Connor, ‘Dancing in the Wings’ by Debbie Allen, ‘Tallulah’s Toe Shoes’ by Marilyn Singer, and ‘Angelina Ballerina’ by Katherine Holabird.”

The program came about this summer when youth services/children’s librarian Mikaela Lawson met Murphy, and the two really hit it off. Lawson says, “I became the children’s librarian at the West Tisbury library right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we were getting to know each other, I was telling Shannon about how I wanted to reinvent virtual story time; that I wanted to find a way to really engage children, as you would in person. Shannon is a professional dancer, and the idea just kind of came together.”

Murphy, who splits her time between Cape Cod and Brooklyn, shares, “This is the first time I have made it a longer program, but I am thrilled at the prospect, and I know Mikaela is too. I have taught dance for a few years now. I was the lead dance teacher at New York Kids Club, I run the children’s dance department for Dance Designs on Cape Cod, and I have done private lessons for both dancers and figure skaters. In those aspects, books aren’t always part of the curriculum, but I love having the opportunity to get into libraries and incorporate dance and books.”

Lawson said the program is a great way to get kids up and moving while still staying connected to the library. Lawson says, “I am thrilled about the program and to bring something that is a typical first activity for young kids into their homes, when right now they probably wouldn’t have that opportunity. I think this program has the ability to connect books to real life. That is an integral part to building a love of reading at a young age for kids.”

To sign up, contact mlawson@clamsnet.org​ for the Zoom login. Classes will meet weekly on Mondays throughout September.