Mountain Meadow students talk the talk and walk the waltz

Andrew Rogers leads Sarah Swanson​ in the tango in front of their parents

When Erin Briones started teaching Mountain Meadow Elementary fifth grade students ballroom dancing, she heard a lot of grumbling and complaints. “Do I have to dance with a girl?” she was asked. “You’re going to make me touch a boy? Do I have to dance?”

But as her students danced and twirled around the gym, showing off their newfound knowledge of waltz, tango, merengue and many more traditional ballroom dance styles, it was obvious they were all having a ball.

The fifth grade students performed what they learned from Briones last Thursday.

Dancing Classrooms has partnered with Mountain Meadow for three years, engaging fifth grade students not only in dance instruction but also how to form relationships and develop social skills.

Dancing Classrooms is an international program that brings dance into the classroom. Students not only dance, but write about their experiences dancing and learn the history of the various dances.

The Dancing Classrooms of Greater Seattle program is part of Pacific Ballroom Dance, a non-profit organization formed in 2003.

Sunrise Elementary in Enumclaw also partners with Dancing Classrooms.

Brione, who has been with Dancing Classrooms for two years, teaches to “see the change,” she said. “There is always a change.”

At first, Brione said, the kids are shy and don’t want to dance (especially with the opposite gender).

Soon, though, she sees the behavior of the kids improve as they break out of their shell.

“It’s not all about dance,” Brione said. “It’s about the social aspects and teamwork of dance.”

Christie Curry, one of the fifth grade teachers at Mountain Meadow, said she’s seen a huge improvement in her students during and after the dancing program.

“It increases self-confidence and positive relationships with peers, especially with the other gender,” Curry said at the event. Curry also said the kids’ ability to follow instructions also improves.

Superintendent Janel Keating also watched the students perform.

“Every time the kids have a show I come,” she said. “It showcases their talent in something out of the ordinary.”

Reach Ray Still at rstill@courierherald.com or 360-825-2555 ext. 5058. Follow him on Twitter @rayscottstill for more news, pictures and local events.