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Roosevelt dances to BMO Harris Bradley Center Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap competition

Roosevelt Elementary School students who participated in the Danceworks Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap program perform for their classmates on May 8.

Roosevelt Elementary School students who participated in the Danceworks Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap program perform for their classmates on May 8. Photo By C.T. Kruger

May 13, 2014

This Saturday (May 17), Roosevelt Elementary fifth-graders will join more than 2,500 students from Milwaukee schools to dance like the stars in the Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap competition, a program of Danceworks, at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, 1001 N. 4th St.

This is Roosevelt's seventh year participating in the competition, which came to the Milwaukee area in 2006. It was modeled after a New York City school program featured in the documentary, "Mad Hot Ballroom."

Danceworks instructors have taught Roosevelt fifth-graders either tap or ballroom routines every day after school for one hour for the past 12 weeks. Ballrooms students danced in pairs and learned salsa, tango and swing routines; tappers danced solo and learned funk, Latin and swing dances.

For the competition, students from Roosevelt will do one dance in teams. Winners will move up in rounds until there are only two couples in the finals.

"The experience for the young people to perform on the floor of BMO Harris Bradley Center is immeasurable," said Danceworks Executive Director Deborah Farris, in a news release.

Roosevelt rehearsals culminated with in-school and community performances last week.

"It's just a wonderful way to teach manners," said Peggy Paar, general music teacher at Roosevelt and Mad Hot coordinator. "Sure, they'll end up dancing, but it's really about learning life skills,"

Sixty-four fifth-graders participated in Mad Hot this year from Roosevelt — an even split of 32 boys and 32 girls.

"Everybody dances with everybody," said Jacqui Lefebvre, lead ballroom teacher at Danceworks.

Learning to dance with a partner is just one of the life skills Mad Hot teaches participants.

"For the first few weeks, they don't even want to touch each other; they are very self conscious," said Lefebvre. She tells students, "In six weeks you won't even think about this. And it's absolutely true. It's so unimportant as the program progresses. They work on respect."

Dancing also teaches discipline. After 12 weeks, students tackle basic steps like the backhand pass or cross-body lead without a second thought.

"We hear a lot of positive impact on this program, and we continue to scholarship any kids who want to continue dancing through the summer," said Lefebvre.

Danceworks is located in Milwaukee at 1661 N. Water Street and provides scholarships based on financial need.

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