Fifth graders in the new ballroom dance program at Windom Dual Immersion School took second place in competition this month, but they played a crucial role in another team’s performance as well.
“They didn’t have enough gentlemen that day,” said Ember Reichgott Junge, former state senator and co-founder of Heart of Dance.
She said two Windom boys helped fill in the gaps for the Northeast charter school Learning For Leadership.
“They helped the team to win first place,” she said.
The Windom Community Council provided $6,000 to fund the program’s first year.
Heart of Dance is a Midwest nonprofit modeled after the New York program Dancing Classrooms. (The subject of the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom.) Reichgott Junge said they focus on fifth graders, because it’s an age where kids are willing to try new things and they’re not old enough to feel too self-conscious. The program teaches respect, teamwork and elegance.
“For us, elegance is about your self-confidence, your stature,” she said.
She said ballroom dance also teaches discipline and respect among genders and cultures.
At Field Community School, staff incorporate the program into the social studies curriculum and teach the cultural origins of the dances. Stonebridge World School also teaches ballroom dance.
To see the kids in action, watch the video at heartofdancemn.org. (The first student speaker is from Windom.)