On June 11, 2015 the fifth grade students at Race Brook School performed in a program that features a salsa, cha cha, merengue and rumba for an audience full of parents, grandparents and students. In just over one month, the students, most of whom are 11 and 12 years old, transformed from typical boys and girls who were squeamish about physical contact with each other and dancing, into a proud and composed group of young dancers.
The program began 8 years ago when Jennifer Bronson, a fourth grade teacher, applied for a grant with the Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation for a program she calls Dancing with the Race Brook Stars. With the help from her friend Kristie Entwistle, a dance instructor from The Ballroom Experience, a Race Brook School tradition was born.
In addition to practicing dancing, the students were also asked to keep a journal about the experience. Though some admitted they were quite nervous to dance with a partner at first, the excitement began to grow as they learned the dance steps. Bronson read aloud some journal entries at the program.
“This was not my first time dancing with a partner, because I’ve danced with my father at the Father Daughter Dance,” one student wrote. “I feel that this is a good lesson for fifth graders, so we can learn to dance early in life and later on, we’ll know what to do. I can’t believe how confident I’ve become,” wrote another.
Each year the Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation funds the program so that fifth grade students can receive ballroom dance lessons for approximately 5 weeks. Then they show off their new moves for family and friends. Some students love the program so much that they continue dancing with Kristie Entwistle in a kids class once the program is completed. They are known as the All-Star dancers and come back each year to perform in front of an audience. This year’s All-Star dancers were Ethan Selmon and Kylee Gustafson.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent