Catherine Charlton, Executive Director, and Andrew Polunin, Artistic & Education Director of Dancing Classrooms Philly, discuss their program, that teaches social dancing to 5th and 8th grade classes to Delaware Valley schools who are lack arts and music programming. Founded by Broadway dancer Pierre Dulaine and featured in the film, Mad Hot Ballroom, the 20-week class teaches the entire grade classic dances such as the Merengue, Foxtrot, Swing and the Waltz, a process that helps students develop self–esteem, social awareness, mutual respect, teamwork and joy. In addition to learning the dances, students are engaged in academic development by researching cultures, creating art, and writing self-reflection papers. The chapter was the first to adopt round-robin, gender-neutral dance partners so that no student has to lead or follow, and during the COVID years when touching wasn’t possible, they added Hip-hop, Latin, and K-pop. These dance programs offer more flexibility for schools, are more manageable for younger students, and focus on cultures that influenced the dances. Everyone participates, with non-dancing students providing music or writing about the program, and at the end of the dance residency the students perform a final showcase for families and friends and student who wish to continue are eligible to join the Saturday Academy where they can learn more steps and dances and meet other dancers from other schools.
In addition to their flagship course, they have a variety of social dance programs for students from K through 12th grade, including in-school and after-school assemblies and residencies, community workshops, and performances opportunities to cultivate essential life skills in students. Classes are taught by dancing professionals who are trained to teach in the Dancing Classrooms method. To learn more, check their calendar of events, to donate or enroll your school, visit dancingclassroomsphilly.org