The Cajun dancing tradition is being well preserved at Allemands Elementary school, as demonstrated by the large crowd that gathered this month at the school’s first ever Cajun dancers reunion.
When you enroll in second grade at Allemands Elementary, it means you finally get to take part in a very special school tradition – Cajun dancing. While all second graders at the school learn Cajun dancing as part of their physical education, some are chosen for a team that goes out into the community and surrounding areas to perform. The tradition was started by Carol Touchard.
Tonya Tastet, a para educator who has been at the school for 21 years, took over the team in 2005 after Touchard’s retirement. She had the idea for the reunion, and even organized recent trips to R.J. Vial Elementary to go and teach the third, fourth and fifth graders there how to Cajun dance. Those students missed out on the Allemands Elementary because of COVID and Hurricane Ida.
“It was a wonderful,” Tastet said of the reunion. “I had so many students come up to me and say, ‘Do you remember me?’ They’re so grown up now that I had to try to picture their baby face. The reunion was really just so nice and heartfelt.”
Touchard attended and spoke at the reunion, as did Superintendent Ken Oertling. Current traveling dancers and AES second graders performed, and after those performances all former students were invited to the floor to dance.
“They just all came out with no hesitation,” Tastet said. “It was really cute. Some of the parents got out there and danced with the kids. We were talking about it after the event, and we think this might be a good thing to do every five years or so.”
Other people seemed to enjoy the reunion as much as Tastet.
“It was such a treat to attend the Cajun dancer reunion,” Amanda Martin said. “Hearing how much it means to all of the speakers was heart-warming. What a surprise it was for Madam Touchard – who taught me Cajun dancing in 1998 – to be there and speak about the heritage and how teaching French and the dances reconnected generations. My second grader is a current traveling Cajun dancer and both of his younger brothers already say they want to be one when they get to second grade.”
Kollen Comardelle was one former Cajun dancer who enjoyed dancing at the reunion.
“It is truly amazing what Mrs. Tonya and Mrs. Solomon have done for me, these kids, the future generations of traveling Cajun dancers and Allemands Elementary as a school,” he said.