Gateway: Living

Students learn to shake a leg

When Purdy Elementary introduced the Dancing Classrooms program to the fifth grade cohort, the students weren’t so sure about dancing with each other.

“Overall, kids started with ‘Ew, don’t touch me. I don’t want to touch you,’ to really embracing (the program),” said Katja Rimmele, Purdy’s assistant principal.

Twice a week for the last 10 weeks, fifth-graders at Purdy have been meeting in the cafeteria to learn social dances such as the Foxtrot, Waltz, Samba and Tango. The students will show off their skills with a pair of performances, 1 and 2 p.m., Friday (March 27) at the school.

Last weekend, the students danced their way to a big, silver second-place trophy at the Colors of the Rainbow regional competition in Federal Way.

The dance program isn’t all about learning to shake a leg, Dancing Classroom’s mission is to break down the social barriers between children. The style of dance is meant to boost not just self-esteem but respect for others.

Sophie Krueger, 10, and Duren Miller, 11, are paired up as a couple for swing dance.

Miller wasn’t so sure about the dancing lessons at first, but after a couple of months he’s got the hang of it. It’s been fun to learn, but he’ll probably stick to baseball in the future, he said.

Krueger, on the other hand, has really taken to the dance lessons. She practices at home, always volunteers to demonstrate and wants to continue learning after Dancing Classrooms wraps up.

At the very beginning, after returning from Winter Break, no one really wanted to dance, teacher Katie Morgan said.

“Now it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love it,” she said.

Instructor Rick Gossard teaches at Pacific Ballroom Dance in Auburn. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he’s been taking the students through the steps.

The fifth grade teachers at Purdy pooled funds to back the program. Rimmele said the school would like to continue the program and plans on fundraising and looking for grants to continue.

Although it’s not a confirmed correlation, office referrals in the fifth grade cohort have been down, Rimmele said. For some students, the dancing is a non-academic way to shine, she said.