When you enroll in second grade at Allemands Elementary School, 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.
That tradition was altered a few years ago – along with a lot of other things for students – when the pandemic was followed by Hurricane Ida. With the Cajun dance classes halted for three years, many local students couldn’t take part in the treasured tradition. Tonya Tastet, a para educator who has been at the school for 21 years, is looking to change that.
Tastet, who formerly assisted the prior Cajun dancer instructor, took over the team in 2005.
“I started picking up the moves and was able to help her, so when she was retiring and I was willing to take it over,” Tastet said of the dance class.
The dancing tradition started in the mid-1980s, which means that many of the students who missed their chance to participate in Cajun dancing have parents who were once Cajun dancers themselves.
“We had some parents who had kids who had been through here before or they themselves had done it and they were really disappointed that their kids missed out,” Tastet said. “We had parents reach out and see if we could do something.”
Tastet said that her idea to bring back Cajun dancing and catch everyone up is two-fold – first she is scheduling a trip to R.J. Vial Elementary to go and teach the third, fourth and fifth graders there how to Cajun dance. Allemands Elementary feeds into R.J. Vial, so she said by doing that she should be able to catch-up everyone who missed the class. The second part of her plan is to organize a Cajun Dancer Reunion that all past and current students can attend.
“It’s almost like a family reunion,” Tastet said. “That’s what Allemands is … I like how it’s a family. The kids, the faculty, the teachers … it’s like family. Everyone is so nice and helpful.”
Taste said so far the feedback on the reunion has been great.
“People that we’ve talked to are really excited and interested,” she said. “It’s the first time we’re having a reunion like this. We’re just inviting everyone to come out and dance.”
The reunion will be held on March 11 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the J.B. Martin Gymnasium, located at 434 South St. in Paradis. For more information or to RSVP for the event contact Allemands Elementary School.