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Mary McCatty, an educational liaison with New York-based Dancing Classrooms, taught students at Powell Elementary in Raleigh and Zebulon Elementary the basics about ballroom dancing, swing dancing and line dancing. Along the way, McCatty communicated ideas such as how body language means as much as spoken language and to be respectful in both actions and words.
“In this day and time, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen don’t always treat each other with respect, and that’s part of what we’re doing,” McCatty said. “It’s social, emotional learning. You learn how to partner up and be a teammate and then how to really move together with that person.”
Dancing Classrooms started in 1994 in New York City as a program teaching ballroom dancing to elementary and middle school students. It’s now become a national program that serves 45,000 students a year.
According to Dancing Classrooms, learning the art of social dance cultivates essential life skills in children. The group says teaching children to dance together fosters respect, teamwork, confidence and a sense of joy and accomplishment.
Those attributes were on the agenda Friday as McCatty talked to students about politely asking a person for a dance, showing respect by dancing with someone who they may not want to dance with, and thanking their partner after a dance. McCatty was at two magnet schools, Powell and Zebulon, that offer expanded arts programs.
McCatty used merengue, a type of Dominican dance, to teach ballroom dancing. She then moved to “Rock Around the Clock” to introduce the students to swing dancing before ending with “Uptown Funk” to get the kids excited about line dancing. By the end of the hour, the students were disappointed when they were told the class was over.
Ja-Shiya Spruill, 10, a fifth-grader at Powell, said she wants to continue learning about ballroom dancing.
“It was fun,” Ja-Shiya said. “You can use things to get to know people better.”
Damarion King, 10, a fifth-grader at Powell, was thrilled at being the prince of the court as he led the students in a circle as they waved to “Queen Smith” – their dance teacher Jessica Smith.
“I liked the dancing,” Damarion said. “I like how she set it up.”
Source: News & Observer