4-H performing arts program teaches unexpected skills

Kelda J.L. Pharris
kpharris@aberdeennews.com

Twenty-plus pairs of feet stomp along with the rhythms of American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life.”

The 2014 pop song fills the shell of the stage in the Krikac Auditorium on the Northern State University campus. It’s super catchy, earnest and just a touch angsty. It’s that middle school and high school experience, in essence. A pull of looking forward hopefully and filling your present fully.

It’s the perfect song to weave into the 2019 4-H Performing Arts musical “Resolutions.” Performances were held June 14-15.

“Our show is all about how you make the best year of your life,” said Alyssa Serfling, a Mellette native and the regular director of the program since 2011.

The teens, ages 13-18, met on the Northern campus from across South Dakota for a weeklong camp. As they posed and danced on the first day on June 10, they were already tightening up in choreography. They worked out the best way to turn or how to raise their arms without hitting a neighbor. They hadn’t yet received their scripts.

“You learn a lot of different skills that aren’t always recognized in 4-H,” said Kylee Sanborn of the McPherson County club Willing Workers.

In a program that often brings to mind showing animals and produce, performing arts camp is a rare opportunity for the 15-year-old. She gets to work on theater skills like footwork, singing, memorization and general stage presence. But the experience’s benefits flex far beyond the stage.

“It brings in not just learning script and choreography, but thinking about their future,” Serfling said.

“It’s leadership,” she said simply.

The camp made enough of an impression that she returned for a second year.

The students work together each day with Serfling. She guides and they follow, but there’s a discourse in the details. When there are options for how to proceed with a movement, they try them both and decide together what works best.

“This is about building leadership and personal skills,” Serfling said. “It’s not just learning about singing and dancing, it’s about life skills, too.”

South Dakota 4-H Performing Arts was started in 1984 by Carolyn Clague, who is associate professor emerita of Extension youth development and a 4-H specialist at South Dakota State University.

Alyssa Serfling instructs the 2019 South Dakota 4-H Performing Arts troupe in “Resolutions.” Performances were held June 14-15 at Krikac Auditorium.
Alyssa Serfling instructs the 2019 South Dakota 4-H Performing Arts troupe in “Resolutions.” Performances are Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. at Krikac Auditorium. American News photo by Kelda J.L. Pharris

  • Performances by the South Dakota 4-H Performing Arts troupe
  • Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 10 a.m.
  • Krikac Auditorium, Northern State University
  • Free admission
  • State fair performances to be announced.