Richmond school uses ballroom dancing to teach life lessons


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

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

Students seem to enjoy learning all the fancy footwork. However, the class teaches much more than that.

With any class comes a test.

But instead of bringing pencils and papers to finish this particular one, these students just wear their poise and precision in the middle of a gymnasium in front of a waiting audience.

Welcome to the Dancing Classrooms final exam here at Overby-Sheppard Elementary, where for these 63 fifth graders every second and every step counts as they focus on the rhythm of ballroom dance styles such as tango, merengue, rumba, The swing, the Foxtrot and Lamont Wilson’s favorite – “The Waltz,” he said. “It’s calm. It’s a lot of movement, but it’s calm.”

The soft-spoken 11-year-old really enjoys all the fancy footwork learned in this 10-week, twice-weekly course. This allows him to do something he had never considered before, namely mastering formal dance moves.

“It teaches you a lot of things,” Wilson said. “It teaches you dances that you didn’t really know existed. It helps you move and stay healthy, and it exposes you to different things.”

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

She thinks this interaction offers more than twists and turns. This is why she has been hosting this program within the school for several years now.

“It’s so much more than dancing,” Lancaster-Gay said. “The students are able to interact with each other. They learn etiquette. They learn good manners. They learn appropriate social graces, appropriate social communication. They learn to bow and bow to each other.

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

“For me, taking dance lessons is like finding a new key for myself,” Wilson said. “It brings happiness and it shows me what other abilities I have.”

Each step shows these students what they can do, and at first glance they certainly passed their dance test.

However, the hope is that they will continue to move in the right direction, whether they spin on the dance floor or in life.

Several elementary schools in the region host the Dancing Classrooms program, and students from these schools will meet on Thursday March 28 to participate in the Team Match competition.

It will be held at the Lycée Huguenot from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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