BALLROOM DANCE AT FORSYTH
This is P.E. at Forsyth.
So is this.
Ballroom dancing? For two weeks, Forsyth School fourth, fifth, and sixth graders study ballroom dance with professional dancer Lucy Fitzgerald from Just Dancing West. We’re talking foxtrot, swing, rumba and tango for 9-12 year olds in P.E. class. There’s a performance at the end for the fifth and sixth graders, followed by a dance contest for sixth grade.
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How does ballroom dance relate to physical education? Ballroom dance utilizes core strength for posture. It requires discipline, respect, and teamwork–albeit for teams of two. Dancers have to be in the moment, fully engaged with their partner. The social dynamics are essential. Good manners or etiquette is as important as learning dance steps. The social protocols of professional ballroom dance would disqualify a team, for example, if the partner was not correctly escorted to the dance floor.
“I’m amazed at how much Forsyth kids remember from the previous year,” says Mrs. Fitzgerald. “Because of that, I can challenge them with more dance moves.” This, by the way, echoes Diadie Bathily’s recurrent comments about teaching African dance at Forsyth, which is also a P.E. unit of study. Mr. Bathily is Artistic Director of Afriky Lolo.
“We set the bar high here,” observes Coach Shelley Stone. “The kids know they have to excel.” Each student will dance with Coach Stone or Coach Harris, which ensures that they’ve learned the dances. “Forsyth is a place where kids are comfortable being uncomfortable, and ballroom dance, is one of those situations,” says Coach Justin Harris. “Dance provides an opportunity for every child to shine,” say their teachers. Some kids who succeed on the soccer field or basketball court, might find the dance floor is a challenge. And visa versa. Learning to accept constructive criticism is also part of ballroom dance.
How does ballroom dance go over with kids today? “Kids are surprised at how much they like it,” Coach Harris observes. “In fourth grade, they come in not expecting to like dancing,” says Coach Stone. Forsyth’s P.E. teachers share an observation: after a few dance classes, the fourth graders will show up in the gym at lunchtime to rehearse what they’ve learned–on their own. Forsyth’s P.E. teachers also see siblings teaching younger sibs how to dance. “At Forsyth, it’s cool to do ballroom dance,” notes Coach Harris.