Dancing With Class program teaches social-emotional skills through movement in Chicago schools

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Schools throughout Chicago are partnering with a youth dance program called Dancing with Class, helping students gain social-emotional skills through movement.

"Our mission at Dancing with Class is to energize and engage schools and communities through the joy of dance," said executive director Margot Toppen.

Richard Edwards Elementary School, a CPS dual-language arts school on the Southwest Side, was among the earliest to partner for Dancing With Class. After 10 years, the program is now part of the in-school curriculum for all fifth-graders.

"We know that our students benefit from movements and social-emotional learning through dance," said Marlin Estrada, the dance teacher at Edwards.

"It's just a part of who we are as humans. We have that need to dance and move to rhythm and to connect."

Toppen ccalls the core program "a ten-week journey," in which students from 50 to 60 Chicago schools learn a variety of Latin and ballroom dance styles. Many schools put on a dance performance after the program.

At the end of each 10-week session, select students participate in a city-wide competition at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The competition helps elevate the level of dance and reward high-performing students. But the purpose of that culminating event is still individual growth and teamwork.

"The number one feedback we receive from teachers whose students take this journey is they say, 'My students get along better and treat each other with more respect,'" Toppen said.
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