by Debra Danese for The Dance Journal | photo credit Erica Vanstone
Dancing Classrooms Philly (DCP) will culminate its 10th season at the Colors of the Rainbow Team Match Grand Final on June 4th. To commemorate the 10th anniversary, the DCP teaching artists will open the event by performing a hustle piece choreographed by Donna Boyle. Boyle herself is a teaching artist who has been with the program from its founding. Immediately following, fifth grade students from eight Philadelphia-area schools will compete in social dances such as salsa, rumba and the fox trot. They will be evaluated and scored on their dance frame, form, rhythm, style, and correct Dancing Classrooms syllabus. Students in the Grand Final completed a DCP In- School Residency Program and successfully competed in the Semi-Finals and Semester Finals earlier in the season. Pan American Academy Charter School, St. Jerome School and Rhawnhurst Public School are just a few of the schools who will be represented.
The DCP program is based on the New York City program founded by award-winning ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine. The DCP In-School Residency is open to 5th and 8th grades. Students learn dances such as the tango, waltz and merengue. The 10 week program is taught by instructors who are carefully selected and trained in the Dulaine Method. Kate Lombardi, DCP’s Artistic and Education Director, says the Dulaine syllabus is very specific on how to present the material. This includes applying specific physical and verbal language, using a gentle yet commanding presence, and providing a safe space to interact and experiment. She feels part of the program’s success is it’s consistency in how and what is presented. She adds, “Our teaching artists are hired as much for their acting skills as they are on their dance background. It takes a lot to motivate and win over a 5th grader. Our instructors need to use both personality and physicality.”
The goals of DCP program are much greater than just teaching dance. The curriculum is designed to develop teamwork, respect, self -confidence and a sense of accomplishment. Donna Boyle says this is accomplished by highlighting the elegant side of ballroom dance. This ranges from instructors dressing up to teach class to demonstrating the appropriate way to ask a partner to dance. Boyle says, “Students feel uncomfortable at first holding hands and dancing with each other. By the end of the residency, you see they are more focused, working as a team, and much politer to each other.”
Since its inception in 2007, DCP has worked with more than 20,000 fifth and eighth graders in public, charter and parochial schools. In 2016-17 alone, 13 teaching artists served 122 classrooms; reaching 3,200 students in different 57 schools. All schools that participate in the DCP In-School Residency have the option to partake in The Colors of the Rainbow Team Match, a ballroom dance competition.
The Grand Final will take place on June 4, 2017, from 2-4pm at the University of the Arts, Levitt Auditorium, 401 South Broad Street, Philadelphia. The event is free and open to the public.