Monday, July 04, 2005

Ballroom Dance Craze

"Dancing makes you feel nice; it energizes you,” says one of the fifth grade boys filmed in “Mad Hot Ballroom,” a 2005 documentary of surprising depth and entertainment value. Showcasing the New York Public School’s dance competition for youngsters, this movie proves how involved students can become in an activity if motivated by caring and dedicated teachers. It also reveals the positive behavior changes resulting from participating in such a worthwhile project.

Because dance has always been important to me, I’m encouraged by the renewed interest in ballroom dancing -- and not just in America. “Strictly Ballroom,” Baz Luhrmann’s Australian hit, may have started this resurgence. In Japan, director Mayasuki Suo’s delightful movie “Shall We Dansu?” caused a significant increase in the number of Japanese citizens taking ballroom dance lessons. The American remake, “Shall We Dance” (starring Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon), produced similar results here in the U.S. And what’s the most popular TV offering this summer? “Dancing with the Stars,” a show focusing on ballroom dance competition.

I think the enormous appeal of ballroom dancing comes from its emphasis on social cooperation, discipline (“Even when I’m not dancing, I’m going over the steps in my head,” declares one student), and elegance. Adding competition into the mix makes it a surefire recipe for success as an educational tool. And, I almost forgot, it’s such fun!


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