Having a Ball: CPS student-dancers

May 11, 2009 10:18:58 AM PDT
Hollywood stars aren't the only ones who have been learning to dance. Hundreds of fifth graders from Chicago Public Schools have been studying ballroom dancing this school year. They are participating in the fourth annual Having a Ball program, cpsarts.org an intensive, 20-week ballroom dancing course for students from 15 schools. They learn the International Style of Ballroom Dancing, made popular by ABC's Dancing with the Stars.

All their hard work leads up to a dance-off this Saturday and Sunday. The competition is open to the public and will feature over 300 students performing the Cha Cha, Waltz, Paso Doble, Tango and Jive for a panel of professional ballroom dance judges.

The day-long Semi-Final Competition will be held from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday, May 16 at the Little Village High School, 3120 S. Kostner, Chicago. There is no admission charge.

Following the Semi-Finals, approximately 30 couples will advance to the Final Competition to be held at the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Union Auditorium, 1340 W Washington, Chicago, from 5 to 10 pm on Sunday, May 17. Six finalists will be decided following several rounds of eliminations. A special performance by DanceWorks Chicago will take place midway through the evening competition. Dancers from the CPS Elementary Dance Scholarship Program will also perform. The event is also free.

More than 950 fifth grade students learned to dance through Having a Ball this year. Participating schools were: Addams Elementary, Agassiz Elementary, Alcott Elementary, Attucks Elementary, Cleveland Elementary, Edwards School, Hefferan Elementary, Kipling Elementary, May Community Academy, New Sullivan Elementary, Onahan Elementary, Oriole Park Elementary, Sandoval Elementary, Saucedo Scholastic Academy and Thorp Scholastic Academy.

Partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education Carol M. White Physical Education Grant and the Chicago Board of Education, Having a Ball's intensive, in-school ballroom dance instruction provides students with physical exercise while fostering the development of confidence, self-esteem, teamwork, coordination and musicality.

"There are so many ways our students benefit from participating in Having a Ball, from classroom instruction to character building,'' says Rufus Williams, president of the Chicago Board of Education. "It would be difficult for any 5th grader to pass through this program and not feel transformed into a more self-confident, more fit and focused student, who suddenly is more culturally connected to the world."

In support of Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid, Having a Ball focuses on the International Style of ballroom dance which features a universally-recognized syllabus that is taught world-wide. Having a Ball instructs students in the Bronze Level, International Style of ballroom dance, which includes the Cha-Cha, Waltz, Tango, Paso Doble, and Jive. In addition to regular ballroom dance instruction, students receive 50 minutes of classroom instruction focused on related subject areas, including fitness, nutrition, socio-emotional skills and cultural connections.

In 1997, competitive ballroom dance or DanceSport as it is now commonly known was recognized by the International Olympic Committee as an Olympic non-medaling sport. Since then, DanceSport has grown tremendously in popularity, as evidenced by the hit television show, Dancing with the Stars. International Style is the most widely danced form, with competitions taking place across the globe.

The Elementary Dance Scholarship Pilot Program

Following the success of Having a Ball, the CPS Office of Arts Education has recently launched the pilot of its new Elementary Dance Scholarship Program (EDSPP) which invites students from last year's Having a Ball ballroom dance program to participate in fully-funded, intensive dance training over the course of 12 weeks. Participating students meet twice a week, after school at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Lou Conte Dance Studio where they will study ballet and ballroom with program faculty.

"What we hope each of these young dancers takes away from their experience in EDSPP is the confidence to dream big. I've already heard students express increased assurance in their capabilities ? three weeks into the program one child was watching a group of professionals practice and stated that if he worked hard enough, he too could some day dance just like the dancers he was admiring", says Dance Curriculum Supervisor Maliwan Diemer. "The possibilities are endless, but the standards have to be set high and the doors must be opened. That is what I look forward to the EDSPP doing for this first group and hopefully for many students to come. The benefits of dance are truly immeasurable and for these children, EDSPP is just the beginning."

HAVING A BALL BALLROOM DANCE COMPETITION Semi-Finals ? Saturday, May 16 ? 10 a.m. ? 5 p.m. ? Little Village High School, 3120 S. Kostner, Chicago

Finals ? Sunday, May 17 ? 5 p.m. ? 10 p.m. ? Stephen M Bailey Auditorium, 1340 W Washington, Chicago

Both events are Free and open to the public

For more information, please visit cpsarts.org


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