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Students learn life skills through dance program

March 6, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Hundreds of fifth graders, dressed in colorful T-shirts, were eager to show what they had learned over the last several weeks Saturday as they took part in the second of two Dancing Classroom events at Miromar Outlets in Estero.

Students from Dr. Carrie D. Robinson Littleton, Lehigh and Hancock Creek elementary schools and James Stephens International Academy demonstrated the merengue, foxtrot, rumba, polka, tango and stomp.

The first was held in October.

Article Photos

Tommy Le, of Hancock Creek Elementary, and Michelle Aynat, of Dr. Carrie D. Robinson Littleton Elementary, during the Dancing Classrooms exhibition at the Miromar Outlets in Estero on Saturday.


Dancing Classrooms is much more than just dance class, though. It's about life skills. The Dancing Classrooms program uses ballroom dancing as a vehicle to build social awareness, confidence, and self-esteem in fifth-grade students across Lee County.

"It brings out social qualities in children that may be hidden within them. We try our best to bring out the best in our ladies and gentlemen," said Marvilla Marzan, one of the teaching artists for Dancing Classrooms. "It's a great program to bring them out of their box."

Andrea Lowther, a fifth-grade teacher at Hancock Creek, said the program has taught participants to connect socially and allows them to work together.

"They have to formulate relationships with their peers while they learn dances, and it integrates everything they learn," Lowther said.

Donna Michaelessi, a fifth-grade teacher at Littleton, said the school has participated since teh program's inception, and it helps children learn the manners they will need as adults.

"Dancing Classrooms is also great exercise for them and they are learning a skill most kids aren't getting. I know I can't do them," Michaelessi said. "Dance has helped these kids step it up academically and behaviorally. They want to be on that team in April."

For the students, learning to dance with a partner is an adjustment they get used to.

Evelyn Gonzalez, a fifth-grader at Lehigh, said the program has helped her connect with people she didn't know or wanted to be friends with.

"At first, I was very uncomfortable. Most of the girls didn't want to touch the boys. Now, I'm getting used to it," Gonzalez said. "At first, none of us were very good. But we've gotten much better."

At the exhibitionm the students not only dance with their regular partners, but also with dancers from other schools and with the instructors in front of hundreds of well-wishers who made the trip.

Fifth-grade students from eight schools in Lee County participate in 10 weeks (20 lessons) of training from certified dance instructors and showcase their skills at the exhibitions and will put them to the ultimate test at the Colors of the Rainbow Team Match event held in April, which Littleton won last year.

Pierre Dulaine founded Dancing Classrooms in 1994 as a way to build confidence, self-esteem, promote teamwork, improve creative skills and even improve students academically.

The program is administered by The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, and funded by Miromar Outlets. It has been taught in Lee County schools since 2008 and every year more than 800 students from eight schools participate.



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