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Children from Yokota Air Base, Japan, practice a song-and-dance number at the Vivace Performing Arts Program, a private organization on base that teaches youth on drama, dance and music.
Children from Yokota Air Base, Japan, practice a song-and-dance number at the Vivace Performing Arts Program, a private organization on base that teaches youth on drama, dance and music. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Children from Yokota Air Base, Japan, practice a song-and-dance number at the Vivace Performing Arts Program, a private organization on base that teaches youth on drama, dance and music.
Children from Yokota Air Base, Japan, practice a song-and-dance number at the Vivace Performing Arts Program, a private organization on base that teaches youth on drama, dance and music. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Jeci Jones sings at the Vivace Performing Arts Program.
Jeci Jones sings at the Vivace Performing Arts Program. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Aspiring Yokota adolescents brought that old Broadway feeling back to the Far East last week — in true American style.

In the second stanza of the Vivace Performing Arts Program’s annual summer session, base children ages 9-18 tackled “Destination America,” examining the influences of song, dance and acting on the nation’s culture. It included Latin flavors and the music of Paul Simon and Broadway.

They wrapped up the four-day class Thursday with a public performance at the Taiyo Recreation Center.

“I love doing the drama and dance,” said Seth Andersen, 11, a seventh-grader at Yokota Middle School taking part in Vivace for the second time. “And I liked [the song], ‘Accentuate the Positive,’ ’cause I have my own dance I get to do, my own solo.”

Nine-year-old Aubri Huang, a fifth-grader at Yokota West Elementary School, was on stage for the first time with the troupe.

“I kinda like the tap — except the shoes I wear are small — and probably the dancing,” she said before the show. “I haven’t done it in a while. That’s probably the best thing I can do — my talent.”

Camryn Sorg, 13, played “Flying Free” on her flute.

“I’m not really a great singer,” said Camryn, a Yokota Middle School eighth-grader. “But I get to play my flute on one of the songs, so I like that. “It was a fun week. It’s all grown on me a little.”

Vivace, now in its fifth summer, is a private, self-sustaining organization on base that teaches Yokota youth about drama, dance and music.

It got under way June 20 for children ages 6-8, who gathered for five afternoon sessions at Yokota West Elementary School in the program’s “Rising Stars” segment.

The “Shining Stars” portion resumes Tuesday for performers ages 9-18. It’ll run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at the Taiyo, with a final class performance July 8 at 6:30 p.m.

“The activities are designed to break children out of their shells, build confidence and teach them about working as a team,” said Betsy Fitzgerald, Vivace executive director. “We do singing, dancing and acting exercises. … It’s a great way for us to keep these kids involved so later on they’ll be able to sustain the arts in America.”

Next week’s theme is the “Rhythm of Life.” Swing, traditional African music in Swahili and jazz — including offerings by Duke Ellington — are in the lesson plan, Fitzgerald said.

A graduate of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., she is one of four instructors this summer. The others are Michael Parks, who’s appeared on Broadway in “Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Miserables”; Yokota High School art teacher Jennifer Sauceda; and Jennifer Higuchi, a Yokota senior.

“Shining Stars” students pay $150 for one week, $250 for both.

Fitzgerald, who moved to Yokota in 2000, started the program after encountering what she considered a bleak arts and drama picture at the base.

“As an advocate, I couldn’t imagine not having these opportunities for kids,” said Fitzgerald, whose husband, Keith, plays trombone in the U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific-Asia.

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