By Judi Curry
I hope that some of you remember the story about my grandson Colin and his goal to win a medal in the Nationals in wrestling and go on to Stanford on a wrestling scholarship. Colin, you might remember, is 14 and had just placed 3rd in his division at the nationals held in Las Vegas a few weeks back. Colin is an excellent athlete – excels in all sports he likes.
There is one other “sport” that he excels in that I want to tell you about.
He attends San Diego Cooperative Charter School and will be graduating from the 8th grade in a scant few weeks. The school philosophy is project based and is a constructivist curriculum model, or a “hands on” learning approach.
There is nothing standard about this school! Some of the electives and requirements are slightly different than other schools in the San Diego Unified School District. The school is a Charter school so lots of the electives and requirements are different than SDUSD. We have to meet their Standards, and do, but the rest is very different than regular schools.
When he entered the 6th grade he was told that “Ballroom Dancing” was a requirement. He was so upset that he cried and wanted to switch schools. He did not want to take the class, but since it was mandated, he had no choice.
And guess what? He loved it. So much so that when he left the 6th grade he continued on with the classes.
Who teaches these classes? A company called “EduDance of San Diego” that has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, even though they are not members. The instructor that comes to their school is affectionately called “Mr. W.”
Their mission, as stated on their web page says,
“Our mission is to provide an atmosphere of learning through the art of expressive dance. The lessons to be taught through this medium include self esteem, confidence, poise, etiquette, respect, courtesy, teamwork, social awareness and diversity.
Dance is a form of communication. Children learn to express themselves through movement; therefore, communicating with one another through the artistic language of dance.
In addition to the above mentioned skills promoted in the EduDance program, the children participating will also learn about the history of the dances as they are introduced. Each dance is its own form of art, and we will be explaining the different dances in detail. We will also be introducing the music behind each dance, the different eras in which they were conceived, and how these dances were danced and are still danced today by different cultures around the world.
In the one hour that we will spend with the students, we will be covering the California State standards for music, dance, and Physical Education.
One course in ballroom dancing, can bring children together joining different ethnicities, children with language differences and children from various backgrounds. Even if just for the time they come together for their lessons children are able to speak a universal language of music and dance, it is worth the time providing the common platform where each child is equal and each one is communicating through the art of dance. The time invested in teaching the students the joy of expression along with the joy of physical fitness, is a win, win situation!
Once joined together on the dance floor, self-esteem is the most notable change. Postures improve, heads are held high, focus and concentration levels excel and discipline is achieved. Boys have tucked in their shirts; girls stand up straight and prepare for their lead. The partners make eye contact, listen for the music to start, and come together to dance.”
At the competition held on Sunday, May 19th, Colin had three partners. He danced twelve dances, including the Waltz, Cha Cha, Swing, Salsa and Fox Trot. He won 12 ribbons, three of them putting him in first place for those dances. And who did he dance with? Two other students from his school and his third partner, a perky redhead named Erin, is a story unto herself. Why? Because like Colin, the wrestler, she is a “grappler” – taking jujitsu lessons.
Erin has been doing Jiujitsu at the University of Jiujitsu (in Pt. Loma) for over a year. She joined her Dad who had been taking lessons there for about a month. She, like Colin, enjoys a variety of sports and jiujitsu, besides giving her self-defense skills, looked like fun. She is in the dance class because she wanted take the class. She has danced since she was 3 years old, and this class seemed a natural. Her goal is to go to college and become a crime or rape victim advocate. Interestingly enough this is the first time that she and Colin have danced together.
Colin’s other grandparent cautioned him as he was walking out the door to the competition to remember which sport he was in today. He said, “don’t get carried away and try to pin her to the ground.” With Erin as his partner, I don’t think that would happen.
It was a fun day and watching the interactions between the dancing couples was amazing. I was amused to see Colin “singing” to the old songs that were played. It reminded me of my own children because we had a player piano and they learned all of the old songs, thinking they were new until their friends told them they had never heard them before. And Erin was obviously enjoying herself immensely because she always had a smile on her face.
The performances I watched almost made me want to get out on the dance floor myself. This class, or classes like it, should be reinstated in classrooms everywhere. Kudos to those that made the decision to teach this class; and a round of applause should go to the students that are participating.