The approaching end of the school year can make students break into impromptu joyous song and dance, but on a recent Tuesday afternoon, the fifth graders at Park Lane Elementary School had a case of happy feet for a different reason.
Their performance highlighted what they learned during their participation in the Dancing Classrooms Philly (DCP) program. Dapper young gentlemen offered their arms to elegant young ladies as they danced the meringue, foxtrot, rumba, tango, waltz, and swing.
“I showed my partner respect by looking directly in their eyes,” said Nasir Lang. “I had my hand positioned on my partner’s. If my partner messed up, I tried to help them get better. If my partner was doing well I would encourage them to keep doing their best.”
It marked the second year of the DCP program at Park Lane. The program offers an opportunity to bring the fine arts to students as a positive academic, behavioral, and social motivation.
“Our entire school district community is very grateful to the work of former fifth grade teacher Julie Satir, who presented the ideals of the program to me in 2015 as an extraordinary opportunity to build our Cooperative Culture Team focus in helping our fifth grade students become more engaged in school,” said Principal Dr. Dawnée Watson-Bouie.
Sandra Davis, a DCP teaching artist, spent the semester teaching students the dances. She credits the other fifth grade teachers and Watson-Boiue for the their support of DCP.
Davis has been dancing since she was three years-old, earned a BFA in Ballet Performance from the University of the Arts, and teaches dance at various spots around the area.
“Everything was very new with them so we started from scratch. We break everything down to them, teach it in silly ways and they learn how to remember to be good team members and elegant at all times,” explained Davis.
Over the years, DCP worked with more than 20,000 local fifth and eighth grade students, in public, charter and parochial schools. The event closed with the upbeat tempo of, “Rock Around the Clock,” then Davis asked students to bring parents or friends from the crowd to the floor to perform the “Macarena.”
“It gets kids moving. It has structure to it but they put their own flair to the dances themselves,” added Valerie D’Amico, an administrator at Musicopia and DCP. “Seeing them learn so many dances so quickly, keeps their motivation going.