Richmond school uses ballroom dance to teach life lessons

Richmond school uses ballroom dance to teach life lessons
Fifth-graders at Overby-Sheppard Elementary focus on keeping time to the rhythms of such ballroom dance styles as Tango, Merengue, Rumba, Swing, Foxtrot and the waltz.

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - When it comes to a good education, one Richmond school simply relies on the basics - reading, writing, and Rumba.

Yes, one lesson includes ballroom dance at Overby-Sheppard Elementary School.

The students seem to enjoy learning all of the fancy footwork. However, the class teaches much more that that.

With any class comes a test.

But instead of bringing pencils and papers to complete this particular one, these students simply carry poise and precision to the middle of a gym floor in front of a waiting audience.

Welcome to the final exam of Dancing Classrooms here at Overby-Sheppard Elementary, where for these 63 fifth-graders, every second and every step counts as they focus on keeping time to the rhythms of such ballroom dance styles as Tango, Merengue, Rumba, Swing, Foxtrot, and Lamont Wilson’s favorite - "The waltz,” he said. “It is calm. It is a lot of movement, but it’s calm.”

The soft-spoken 11-year-old truly fancies all of the fancy footwork learned in this 10-week, twice a week course. It allows him to do something he never considered before now, which is master formal dance moves.

"It teaches you a lot of stuff," said Wilson. "It teaches you dances that you didn't really know that existed. It helps you move and gets you healthy, and it exposes you to different things."

“I believe that every interaction is a learning interaction,” said Principal Kara Lancaster-Gay.

She believes this interaction offers much more than twists and turns. That is why she has welcomed this program inside the school for several years now.

“It is much more than dancing,” said Lancaster-Gay. “Students are able to interact with each other. They learn etiquette. They learn manners. They learn appropriate social graces, appropriate social communication. They learn to bow and curtsy with each other.”

And in between the cortes and promenades, they also learn something about themselves, as Jayla Wilson discovered.

“For me, taking dancing classrooms is like finding a new key to myself,” said Wilson. “It brings happiness and it shows me what other capabilities I have.”

Each step shows these students what they can do, and from the looks of it, they have certainly passed their dance test.

However, the hope is that they continue to move in the right direction, whether they are twirling on a dance floor or through life.

Several elementary schools throughout the area host the Dancing Classrooms program, and students from those schools will come together next Thursday, March 28, to compete in the Team Match competition.

It will be held at Huguenot High School from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

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