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5th graders face off in ballroom competition

January 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Teams of fifth grade dancers from six Santa Monica elementary schools faced off toe-to-toe Wednesday in a dance competition called Ballroom Madness. The students practiced the foxtrot, the rumba, the merengue, and even some swing for 10 weeks."These kids learn to engage in life, they learn about partnership skills, learning teamwork, things that kids don't seem to be doing much today," said Jane Dorian, co-founder of Ballroom Madness.

Ballroom Madness is a three-year-old non-profit organization that is spreading its program through the Los Angeles and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified school districts.

Its goal of bringing ballroom dancing to kids this age is quite a challenge. Let's face it, most fifth graders are more interested in cutting in line than cutting a rug.

"Believe me, coming into this ballroom dancing -- I'm an 11-year-old boy -- put yourself in my shoes, but I really ended up having a great time with this," said Nicholas Solberg, a student at Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica.

But Ballroom Madness isn't just about dancing. Sure these kids have to learn a bunch of different steps, but it's also about developing self-confidence so you can get in front of a crowd.

"You've got to have some significant confidence to come out in front of hundreds of people," said Daniel Ponickly, the artistic director at Ballroom Madness. "They all look around, they all realize that they all know kind of the same thing and now it's just about who can perform it."

In the end, Roosevelt Elementary School in Santa Monica danced its way to a first place finish.

"It was hard to ignore the crowd because that's the only way to focus, but somehow we managed," said Roosevelt student Vincent Probosz.

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