Having a ball

first_img“I felt like there’s something else to do in life other than sports. I felt like coming out here and learning the dances,” said Brian, who acknowledged that he also hopes to meet girls at the lessons. The program is modeled after the 2005 documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom,” about New York City public school fifth-graders who learn ballroom dancing and compete citywide, said Lisa Sandoval, a former board member of the U.S. Amateur Ballroom Association and an organizer of the Antelope Valley program. “They practice two to three times a week. Some of them are after school, some of them during P.E., some of them are doing it at recess, kind of like the movie,” said Sandoval, a speech pathologist with offices in Palmdale and Northridge. A 20-year ballroom dancer, Sandoval found teachers willing to learn the dances and teach the students. An instructor gave them a crash course over two Saturdays in early January. At an after-school practice last week at Esperanza School, second-grade teacher and ballroom dancer of two years Janet Diaz guided youth through some salsa line dance steps. “Look at where my foot is,” Diaz said as she lifted her cream-colored slacks. “Locking step, pivot.” Then Diaz turned on the music, the beat-throbbing “Pon de Replay” by R&B singer Rihanna, and the students proceeded to sway their hands above their heads, swivel their hips and clap their hands. Next up was the fox trot to the silky strains of “Come Fly with Me” by crooner Michael Buble. The students paired off, some girls towering over the boys. While some moved stiffly and cast their eyes down to their feet, others showed grace and a little panache. Diaz said her greatest fear was that not enough boys would enroll. “Although we have more girls than boys, the boys just love it. They ask more questions than the girls. When I ask, `Who needs help?’ the boys are the first to say, `I do.’ I have to go down the whole line of boys because they want instruction,” Diaz said. “They want to be on the team. This is the arts. This is one opportunity where they get to express themselves, and they really like it,” Diaz added. Besides dance, the students learned about old-school etiquette and manners: Never turn someone down, where to properly place hands when dancing. “I have never seen so many little boys want to learn to dance. I’m tickled pink. It’s an introduction to some of the social graces,” Chesnutt said. Sandoval said she cried at the team selection judging two weeks ago. “I saw kids loving dance, and parents looking and being proud of them,” she said. “They are learning social skills, walking girls, offering a hand out, being polite to each other, all of them standing up straight.” [email protected] (661) 267-5744 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! PALMDALE Inspired by the TV hit “Dancing with the Stars” and the popular documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom,” sixth-graders in three Antelope Valley school districts are learning how to salsa, rumba, tango, fox trot and swing. Several hundred pint-sized Astaires and Rogerses began a 10-week ballroom-dancing program in January at one school in the Keppel Union School District, two in the Palmdale district, and six in the Westside district. “They have progressed leaps and bounds,” said Linda Chesnutt, a retired federal program analyst and ballroom dancer for 15 years who gives the students tips on styling and technique. “The kids started off all left feet. They now have a left foot and a right foot.” Two weeks ago, dance teams of 16 students and alternates were selected from each school to compete in a quarterfinal contest that will be held from 6p.m. to 8p.m. Saturday at the Palmdale Senior Center. Admission is $1. The winners will advance to the “Mad Hot Ballroom” finals at the third annual High Desert DanceSport Challenge dance competition March23 to25 at the Antelope Valley College gymnasium. Brian Iguaran, 11, is among about 400 students in the Westside Union School District who are in the program. He said his favorite dances are the East Coast swing, salsa and rumba “because I’m very good at them.” last_img

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