Press Room

EduDance’s Mr. W. Choreographs a flashmob for San Diego Cooperative Charter School

 

 

Dance lessons helping kids with social skills, self-esteem

By Sharon A. Heilbrunn
April 4, 2006

ALPINE – With the smooth sounds of Michael Bublé filling the auditorium, Justin Sullivan, 12, linked arms with Hannah Hickman, 10, who gave him a small smile.

He escorted her across the room and placed his hand across her back as she rested hers on his shoulder. The two laced fingers and began to move to the music.

“Slow, slow, quick, quick,” Justin mouthed as he concentrated on his partner, careful not to step on her feet or collide with the 14 other pairs fox-trotting around them.

They are all part of “EduDance, Classrooms In Motion,” a fledgling program in which students meet physical education requirements through ballroom dancing.

Two fifth-grade classes at Boulder Oaks Elementary School in Alpine participate in EduDance, which began this school year and could eventually reach other schools in the county, said Anne Krantz, the program’s founder and coordinator.

The concept has caught on with students, teachers and parents since its inception in September. Suddenly, students know music and moves that would make their parents – and grandparents – nostalgic.

Krantz, a competitive ballroom dancer herself, has two children at Boulder Oaks and was looking for a way to volunteer in the classroom. She approached fifth-grade teachers (and sisters) Kathryn Jensen and Karen Jensen with the idea last year.

In the past, the Jensens have incorporated contemporary dance into their curriculum. They thought ballroom dancing would be a fun change for the students, especially with the popularity of “Dancing With the Stars,” a television show on ABC that pairs celebrities with professional dancers. “We thought the students would benefit from partner dancing and learning to be appropriate with each other,” Kathryn Jensen said. “We want to provide a well-rounded education and incorporate music, art and dance into the curriculum.”

Since the beginning of the school year, Krantz has volunteered with Kathryn Jensen’s students for one hour twice a week. She began working with Karen Jensen’s class in January, tacking on another two hours to her schedule.

Students learn six dances throughout the year – fox trot, waltz, tango, rumba, cha-cha and swing.

“The tango is my favorite because I know it well and I like the music,” said Cody Kennel, 11. “It flows perfectly.”

Permanent partners were assigned in the beginning of the year based on height and personality compatibility. Students were shy at first, Krantz said, but they have really opened up.

“One boy couldn’t move his feet at all in the beginning and is now one of my star dancers,” she said. “It’s really opened the doors and helped kids with their self-esteem.”

It couldn’t come at a better time. The students will be making the leap from elementary school to middle school next year.

“It’s important they know how to interact with the other gender,” Krantz said. “They learn a lot about poise and respecting one another.”

Kathryn Jensen has noticed a change in her students. Although initially apprehensive about dancing with one another – “I was afraid of cooties,” Justin said – they have now embraced the idea and spend their lunch breaks helping fellow dancers with routines and steps.

They sometimes coordinate their outfits, too. At last week’s practice, Hannah dressed in a white skirt and black top, and Justin wore black slacks, a white button-down shirt, a tie and sneakers.

The structure and discipline they gain during ballroom dancing carries over to the classroom, Kathryn Jensen said.

Earlier in the school year, the students were treated to a performance by Krantz and her dance partner, Christian Wasinger. Wasinger, a ballroom champion from Austria, pops into class a couple of times a month to work with the students – especially the boys – and demonstrate moves.

“He really pushes us,” Hannah said.

At the end of the year, the students will perform in a “mini-competition.” They will dress in costume and show off their moves in front of a panel of professional dancers, as well as their parents and other students.

Krantz hopes the program will cha-cha its way into classrooms all over the county. “We’re looking to bring this to other schools in San Diego,” she said. “The kids are so proud of what they’re doing.”

Kathryn Jensen, who is getting married in June, has learned a move or two herself for the wedding. “Come May, I’m gonna bring my fiancé in and have him learn from the boys in the class,” she joked.

For more information on “EduDance, Classrooms In Motion,” call (619) 729-1722

 

 

Shall we dance?

American School Board Journal/June 2006

 

America’s fascination with ballroom dancing has reached the classroom with EduDance: Classrooms in Motion, a California program that’s teaching elementary school students to do the fox-trot, the waltz, tango, rumba, cha-cha, and swing, says Anne Krantz, a competitive ballroom dancer who hatched the idea as a volunteer for her son’s elementary school in Alpine, Calif

 

The notion proved as catchy as a rumba tune, beginning with one fifth-grade class this past fall and spreading to another in January. Now EduDance is getting ready to waltz into 10 more San Diego-area schools, and Krantz says she’s heard from schools as far away as New York and Atlanta.

 

Krantz and her dance partner, Christian Wasinger, meet with groups of 30 students once or two days a week.

“In the hour we spend with the students, we’re covering state standards for music, dance, and P.E.,” says Krantz, who plans to begin teaching about the history and cultural origins of the dances next year.

As Krantz points out, dancing helps the kids develop new social skills. “It’s important they know how to interact with the other gender,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “They learn a lot about poise and respecting one another.”

Now enthusiastic dancers, the kids were initially apprehensive, the Union-Tribune reported. As one 12-year-old boy pit it, “I was afraid of cooties”.