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Tropic Isles fifth-graders grow through dance

October 31, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools' Dancing Classrooms program stepped off Saturday.

More than 450 students from Tropic Isles, Bonita Springs, Franklin Park and Villas elementary schools got together at the Miromar Outlets in Estero to show off what they had learned so far at the Fall Exhibition, cheered on by teachers, principals and parents.

"We're trying to teach kids to treat each other with dignity and respect and give them some pride and self-respect," said Marshall T. Bower, president and CEO of the foundation. "The side effect is they learn how to ballroom dance."

Article Photos

McKayla Tierrablanca of Franklin Park Elementary dances with Tropic Isle’s Nathan Haney at the Dancing Classrooms Fall Exhibition at Miromar Outlets in Estero on Saturday.

Carly Burch, teacher at Tropic Isles who got the ball rolling at the school to continue the program, said she has seen how the interaction between the children had changed.

"At first they did not want to touch each other. Now, they get right into dancing. They definitely have more respect for each other for sure," Burch said. "It doesn't take prompting to get them into escort position. They talk and dance with their classmates respectfully."

Susan Stauffer, dancing artist with the Tropic Isles and Bonita kids, said even with three more weeks of twice-weekly classes, they are progressing well.

"On the first day, every student I have ever met has the case of the 'cooties.' By the third or fourth day, they're all gone. They can touch another person, look in their eyes and deal with being close and personal," Stauffer said. "They just get used to it."

The children danced the merengue, tango, polka, shuffle and more. Every so often, the dancers switched off, meaning they would also have to dance with not only people they hadn't danced with before, but also from other schools.

Reesanne Thomas, a Tropic Isles fifth-grader, said dancing was fun, though she was nervous to dance with so many people she didn't know.

"When I first did it, I was like "'Oh, my gosh. What am I going to do?' After you get used to it, it's easy," Thomas said. "It was scary to dance in front of everyone, but it was fun. I like the polka. You get to move around a lot."

Stephanie, her mom, was very proud of her performance.

"It's the first time I've seen her dance other than at home and she did great," Stephanie said. "She has gotten used to being around other kinds of people and not be so nervous."

Fifth-grader Daniel Hartnett felt he did well, especially the merengue, which he said is full of action. But, like with most others, it was a big step to take.

"I was nervous at first, but I'm more comfortable and I like dancing with them now," Hartnett said.

Daniel's mom, Alyssa, said he practiced a lot with her and has seen a big difference in him.

"He's a little less nervous. He didn't like girls very much before this and he's gotten over it," Alyssa said.



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