DC fifth graders learn life skills on the dance floor

A group of DC students are putting on their dancing shoes for a lesson in respect and teamwork alongside the waltz and foxtrot.

Fifth graders at Stoddert Elementary School in Washington, DC are learning to be ladies and gentlemen thanks to a program that teaches them life skills-- in addition to dance styles such as the polka, merengue, rhumba and tango.

“We try to instill in them the proper body language, as well as verbal language,” says Melissa Corona, executive director of Dancing Classrooms DC, the program that teaches through the medium of ballroom dancing.

Children who are about to enter middle school are in a transformative time in their lives, Corona says. She thinks the program helps spur on this transformation by teaching elegance and cooperation. 

While some fifth graders are at first hesitant to interact and hold hands, she says, by the end of the program, they’ve grown comfortable twirling their partner and take their final dance performance seriously.

“At the very beginning, I was usually scared of asking someone to dance. I was really anxious, but now after the performance and all the lessons, I’m not that scared anymore,” one student said.

The program also integrates their fifth grade curriculum, so the students complete writing assignments and study the geographic origins and history of various dance styles.

Corona says she hopes the students will take these life skills into their futures, whether or not they become dancers.

“We hope they remember that there is a nice way, a proper way and an elegant way to speak to someone else.”