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HBW Learns To Swing Dance
They are masters at texting, and now they can do the triple step too. Students at H.B. Whitehorne spent last week learning about Swing dance: Its history, its music and, most of all its moves, in preparation for an ambitious entertainment night at the middle school this Saturday, February 8.
Thanks to a grant from the Verona Foundation for Educational Excellence (VFEE), the middle school pulled together a multi-discipline curriculum that helped students learn about a uniquely American dance, and not just by reading about it in books. HBW brought in New York City-based dancer Arturo Perez, who ran every single gym class through all the complicated steps and turns. Music teachers Dan Halpern and Brian Michalowski, meanwhile, worked with the HBW jazz band, which will provide all the sound for Swing Dance Night–and a big sound it will be. Listen to this rehearsal video with your eyes closed and you likely won’t know you’re hearing tween and teenage musicians.
Truth be told, the dance lessons weren’t always easy. Perez made his male students formally approach the young ladies to ask them for a dance, and the girls had to be just as formal in their response. In the gym, there were lots of rolled eyes and sighs as the kids had to actually hold hands to dance (note to grandparents: that’s not what happens now). There were complaints on Facebook and Twitter pages, but in the gym there were also a lot of smiles as the kids whirled around gym, or watched Perez and his partner fly across the floor at top speed. At the end of the week, there was a lot of confidence on the gym floor, and we’ve heard that, at home, some kids actually taught their parents and siblings how to dance.
Perez, who teaches dance to adults as well as to students in New York City schools, was full of praise for the HBW crowd. “They managed to learn in one week what some of my other classes learn in eight. He’s hoping that other New Jersey schools will take up Swing so that there could be dances between schools. That would probably make some HBW teachers happy too: Science teacher Amy Heckel, who noted proudly that she was part of a Swing dance club in college, kept dragging her colleagues on the floor during the lesson.
Swing Dance Night starts at 7 p.m. Saturday. There will be a 30-minute dance lesson, followed by two sets of live Big Band music. There are only a few tickets left for sale at the door; they’re $10 per person.
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