The Newnan Times-Herald


​ Joanna Pang Atkins brings world to children through dance

  • By Winston Skinner
  • |
  • Jul. 22, 2018 - 10:34 PM

​  Joanna Pang Atkins brings world to children through dance

Winston Skinner / The Newnan Times-Herald

Wearing a flowing kimono, Joanna Pang Atkins opens her international dance event at the Carnegie Library with a Japanese flavor.

The children at the Carnegie jumped, clapped, wore colorful sashes and beat on drums.

The nations of Japan, Italy and Ghana opened to about 40 children and the adults accompanying them as Joanna Pang Atkins shared songs, stories, traditions and music.

Atkins presented two programs at the Carnegie Library on Tuesday – one for younger children in the morning and then older children in the afternoon. Ashlynn Harris, 7, attended the morning session and clearly enjoyed it.

Her favorite part was “when we did the step and clap, because we got to move around,” she said.

Atkins talked about the popularity of traditional dancers in Japan, comparing their celebrity to that of sports figures in the United States. “They’re really well-trained dancers,” she said of the dancers.

Atkins had the children perform an arm strengthening exercise that was part of her own training. “We had to do that exercise 100 times,” she said. “They wanted us to develop really strong muscles.”

The children enjoyed the Japanese telephone song with its repetitive sounds. Atkins translated the words as “Hello, hello. Hmm. Hmm. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Goodbye.”

For the Italian part of the program, youngsters tied colorful scarves at their waists with help from Atkins’ husband, Dick. They also used tambourines to keep a beat.

“You can get stories for lyrics,” Atkins said, sharing “Cincirinella,” an Italian song for children about a girl who rode into the forest – with her pet rooster. “She stops because she sees animals she wants to play with,” Atkins said.

Though the girls’ mother had told her to be back before the sun set, the child fell asleep. The mother got everyone in town to get pots and pans – and musical instruments. The people gathered and made a loud noise which awakened the sleeping girl, who followed the noise home.

For the Ghana section, Atkins showed the children several types of patterned kente cloth, including one with the same pattern worn by a former president of the African country.

The presentation ended with everyone dancing to “Celebration.” Atkins had the children use simple steps as well as incorporating everyday motions such as cranking a mower and cutting the grass.

Atkins was in Newnan with her husband for three days of activities. Dick Atkins was the producer of the 1983 television film, “Murder in Coweta County.” 

He was interviewed prior to screenings of the film at the Carnegie on Tuesday and Thursday and led a panel discussion on Wednesday with several people with ties to the 1948 trial that inspired the film. The Wednesday event was in the upper floor courtroom of the Coweta County Courthouse where the original trial took place.

Joanna Pang Atkins has traveled the world and worked an actress and dancer on stage, television and film. She has produced and directed theater for teens and now brings her experience into schools with multi-cultural dance assemblies and residencies.

Her visit to the Carnegie was sponsored by the Newnan Carnegie Library Foundation and the Newnan Kiwanis Club.