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Area students show off their dance moves

November 2, 2016
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

For the past several weeks, fifth-graders from throughout Lee County have been spending time during the school day learning not only to become great dancers, but even better ladies and gentlemen.

On Saturday, the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools' Dancing Classrooms program held its fall exhibition at Miromar Outlets in Estero to provide an opportunity for the three participating schools to show off the dancing skills they have learned so far.

Hundreds of students from Lehigh, Carrie Robinson and Tropic Isles elementary schools gathered in the parking lot outside the outlets to dance the tango, polka, merengue, rumba and stomp to hundreds more proud friends and parents.

Article Photos


Carrie Robinson Elementary student Ben Wiskur dances with Samantha Vavasseur of Tropic Isles at the Dancing Classrooms fall exhibition at Miromar Outlets in Estero on Saturday.

Bridey Kearns, teaching artist for the Dancing Classroom program, said learning to dance, while important, is only a secondary aspect to the program.

Throughout the 10-week program, the kids learn life skills they will use for the rest of their lives. Dance is the vehicle they use to achieve that.

"The goal is to get them to act like ladies and gentlemen. They ask, thank and escort their partner, they stand in good frame and respectfully and the hope is that they go from "Ewww" to being able to dance with anyone and show their manners and respect," Kearns said.

Landon Laine, fifth-grader at Robinson Elementary, said he has learned many dances and how to respect others. And treat them as he would like to be treated. That wasn't always the case.

"Dancing seemed really fun. The first time I had to dance with a girl I thought 'No, I don't want to.' Now, I like it," Laine said. "I have more manners and respect."

Alane Adams, Tropic Isles principal, said the kids have gone from not wanting to touch each other to dancing elegantly with partners

"Boys and girls have cooties at that age, but I've seen a big change. They learn to get along with everybody," Adams said. "They learn to be a team and not just the individual. There's a big change behaviorally at the school."

Tropic Isles student Aston Harris said she wanted to learn about the dances and countries and experiences what they went through.

"It was a little disgusting at first, but it turned out to be fun. I learned a lot of dances and that' there's a good way to express dancing," Harris said.

The event presented a small twist, after dancing with their partners, the students had to move to other partners from other schools, whom they have never danced with. They still needed to show the proper respect, asking for and thanking them for the dance with a bow or curtsey.

Marshall T. Bower had a front-row seat for the event. He said he was amazed by how the program has grown over the years.

"The goal is to get this in all 48 elementary schools. It teaches ballroom dancing, which they can take with them for the rest of their lives," Bower said. "It teaches them to treat each other with dignity. Have self-respect for themselves and gets them moving."

After the hour-long show, the parents were amazed by how the program has changed their kids. Staci Henley said she saw in her daughter, Ariana, how it has changed them for the better.

"She first complained about having to dance with boys. Now. It's second nature, and I've noticed the difference," Henley said. "She's always had manners, but now she expects a boy to hold a door open for her."



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