The mind rot, aka television, occasionally allows something remarkable. Mad Hot Ballroom is such a find. Absently searching the maze of channels I stopped mid-click upon finding this documentary: The story of 10 and 11- year-olds from 60 public schools in New York City boroughs – learning to ballroom dance! Highlighted were P.S. 112, a neighborhood of mostly Italian and Asian families; P.S. 150, from the wealthy and prestigious Tribeca district; P.S. 115, with most families below poverty level.
Some dance classes were given as part of P.E. programs, others, obviously, at private studios. Talented dance teachers, genuinely interested in helping young people succeed, worked tirelessly at teaching the tango, the fox trot, the rumba, the meringue. Real 10 and 11- year-olds had factual dialog among themselves – about life and babies and warding off the ugly and who is cute and who is not.
For students, the ultimate goal of learning to dance was participation in a prominent N.Y. City competition, though each gained even greater skills as confidence and maturity evolved. The ultimate goal of dance instructors was to bring out the best in already successful students; to encourage at-risk students; to turn around young lives – through dance. And how they succeeded! Student tenacity and skill amazed me and I cried as teams failed to make the cut. Serious life lessons were learned by those eliminated in further competition; tears of joys were shared by those who continued on.
Houston is not New York City, but we have outstanding music, performing and visual arts. Please, let’s draw upon these attributes and somehow reinstate the arts in our public schools.
And kindly save the last dance for me.by