Dancing Classrooms program twirls into Port

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Dancing Classrooms program twirls into Port

Fifth-graders from all five Port Washington elementary schools strutted back to the golden days of ballroom dance and put on  performances for their parents last Monday as part of the Dancing Classrooms program.

Instructors from Dancing Classrooms Long Island, which is administered by CoDanceCo, a dance organization, taught students from the elementary schools ballroom dance in a program that mixes physical education, health, music and character education programs.

“School goes beyond the boundaries of academics,” said Sheri Suzzan, principal of the John J. Daly Elementary School and creator of the program in the Port Washington school district. “Programs like this teach lifelong skills to students about getting along with other students, working together for a common goal and more. I think that is very important.”

Suzzan said she discovered the program, which has been running in Port Washington for three years, when she saw “Mad Hot Ballroom,” a documentary about the group.

“I heard about the program and it originated in New York City, and I thought it would be good for Port Washington,” Suzzan said.

The program is funded by the creative arts department, the Ed. Foundation, a local organization that raises money for the Port Washington school district, Home and School Associations and the Helping Enrich the Arts foundation.

Students met with instructors for 40 minutes twice a week for 10 weeks, and learned ballroom dancing and its history, said Kevin Scully, director of creative arts.

“The students learn different types of dances, different culture, the music that goes with the dance, poise, posture, politeness, how to interact with children of the opposite gender and students of the same gender,” Scully said.

Students mainly work with their classroom teachers — who learn the dance, too — and are guided by music teachers, health teachers, physical education teachers and other instructors around the school, Scully said.

“It’s dancing and performing, but it really covers so many more bases,” Scully said. “They’re learning emotional growth, how to interact with one another, academics, history and cultural studies.”

Both Scully and Suzzan said it’s fun watching the students evolve in the program.

“It’s fun to watch because the students are hesitant at first when the program starts, but at the end they’re extremely excited about it and want to dance,” Scully said.

The program capped off with a dancing finale that students performed for parents at each of the schools.

Suzzan said this year’s finale was “very professionally done.”

“No offense to other groups, but this is hands down the best night of the year,” she said. “It was a ton of fun and it was outstanding watching from start to finish. And the parents were in to it, too.”

“Our schools have been running the Dancing Classrooms program for a few years now; in addition to teaching students physical dance skills, it develops self- confidence and social awareness and contributes to their emotional well-being,” Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Mooney said. “They also learn to work cooperatively with their partners and gain an appreciation for the cultures from which these dances originate.”

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