Practicing hip-hop moves (Angela Cave photos)
Practicing hip-hop moves (Angela Cave photos)
A kid-friendly version of South Korean singer Psy's song "Gangnam Style" blared out of the speakers in a room at Mater Christi School in Albany after school last week as half a dozen second- through sixth-grade girls busted out some warm-up moves.

They then moved on to isolations - rolling and popping their shoulders, hips, knees, chins, heads and torsos to the beat - as well as across-the-floor routines, freestyle circle dances and "freeze dance."

Between songs, they ran around excitedly, picked each other up and begged their instructor to play tunes from "Camp Rock," a Disney Channel movie starring the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato.

Elsewhere in the building, pre-kindergartners and kindergartners did creative dance and music, first-graders took tennis lessons and different age groups studied music - all part of an array of after-school activities available for an extra fee to Mater Christi students. Other programs include piano lessons, Lego robotics, international dance and drama club.

The hip-hop club meets four times a year for six weeks each. Parents are treated to a performance at the end of each quarter.

It was Alpha Mathai's first session last week. Like her peers, she thinks dance is fun and joined so she could "learn new moves." During the freestyle portions of the session, she relied on a "Saturday Night Fever" disco move, pointing her finger to the sky.

Emily Amodeo, a fourth-grader, joined the club in the fall when she transferred to Mater Christi. The social aspect is a bonus: "I get to meet new people."

Children typically only see other age groups at lunch and recess and in the bathroom, according to Sophia Squires, a second-grader who started in the fall. She used to take ballet, but has already decided hip-hop is better.

"It's, like, really bouncy and fast," she said, "when ballet is very smooth and slow. Hip-hop has a nice way of moving your feet and parts of your body. It gets you more familiar with dancing.

"My favorite thing about it," she continued, "is I get to take time from working and be bouncy and get dancing - because I don't really get to dance throughout the day."

Sophia's peer, Michelle Mayer, agreed.

"I like to dance with these songs," she said. "I can feel some emotion with it. I feel, like, right in the place I'm supposed to be. I'm really used to it and I really like it.

"It's a good thing for you to exercise to," Michelle continued. "You can get up and express yourself with it. All my friends are there, so it makes it really comfy and nice."

Michelle enjoys inventing her own moves: "I like some structure, but I like doing it my way. I feel like I just let [everything] go [and] try to create what I can."