Merengue. Rumba. Foxtrot. Swing. Polka. Tango.
These are not necessarily the dance moves that Maplewood and South Orange parents are anticipating their children will be bringing home, but, for the last three years, Seth Boyden Demonstration School's fifth graders have been doing just that.
Seth Boyden has been the beneficiary of NJPAC's Dancing Ballrooms program since the spring of 2011. Dancing Classrooms Director Pierre Dulaine explained during a visit in 2011 that the program is based on respect, compassion and humor.
"You have to respect the children at their level," said Dulaine. "What is important is that one does not abuse the power of an adult" when teaching.
Anthony Mazzocchi, South Orange-Maplewood School District Director of Music and Arts, noted at the time that, "Bringing a program like this to the schools is important because, while academics are obviously important, art forms like this give students a way to process data in a creative way."
This year, Dancing Classrooms' teaching artists Danielle Thompson and Lisa Gunn-Becker worked with the fifth graders to produce an evening performance on November 19 at the Seth Boyden auditorium (see video). Parents expecting some awkwardness and missteps were dazzled by well-rehearsed and executed dances — as well as the sight of their children, boys and girls alike, truly enjoying themselves and revelling in their accomplishment.
NJPAC is the regional provider of the international Dancing Classrooms Program, which is just one of many offerings from NJPAC Arts Education In-School programs.
Dancing Classrooms is generously supported by Victoria Foundation, David and Marian Rocker, Merck Company Foundation, The Prudential Foundation, Jennifer Chalsty, TD Charitable Foundation, Novo Nordisk, William Randolph Hearst Foundation, Automatic Data Processing, Ann and Stan Borowiec, Edison Properties, The Provident Bank Foundation, and The Johnny Mercer Foundation.
The program was also profiled in the award-winning 2005 documentary film Mad Hot Ballroom.