The Women's Journal

Ballroom Dance for Children & Teens

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dance_YvonneBy Yvonne M. Cimo

I speak a lot about teaching adults and my goal of building confidence and opening up doors to a fuller social life.  I also teach young students and teens through invitations from schools, churches, summer camps and fitness centers.

This can be a challenge with young people –after all,  ballroom dancing is not what their peers are doing and just having two young people touch in a ballroom frame can be an cause for fear and anxiety for many reasons.  I have had to learn many techniques to work through all of the objections and apprehension.   It is a challenge.


Students learn how to dance closely and respectfully with a partner and to graciously ask for or decline a dance without hurting another’s feelings.  Seeing students willingly and proudly line up for a Fox Trot mixer is quite refreshing  especially at a time when many schools across the nation are closing proms or posting chaperones to stop the ‘grinding’ or ‘freaking’ suggestive dance movements of young people who have no alternative form of dance.

Dance can bridge great divides in our community.  At a time when many Latinos are living in our community we can honor them by learning their dances! Merengue and Salsa are fun, energetic and a great lesson in cultural exchange.

Dance is Celebration!  I cannot tell you what it looks like when 100 8th graders are doing swing dancing and having the time of their lives doing spins and arm slides. Dance truly takes its part in community festivity.  I teach a version of an ancient folk dance that uses the same footwork as the electric slide!  Males hold hands with males in a circle, and females lock hands with females and move to uplifting commemoration of friendship.  Seeing them do this and watching the joy in their faces is so exhilarating that I always watch in awe at the power of dance.

No Matter What School I am Teaching In

…First Thing Students Learn: “MY RULES”

* Never talk while I am instructing and watch me. I am talking & demonstrating & I need their attention.

* No hands in pockets or armpits (girls don’t want to dance with a guy who has had his hands in his armpits.

* Never ever reject any partner. Good Etiquette says that we treat people with kindness and respect.  It is so easy for feelings to get hurt.  No one gets to choose a dance partner.  I match up students & we do frequent partner changes.   This is my most important rule and I make a point of telling this to every single class I teach.  Dance is a way to celebrate with community and we never leave anyone out if we can help it.

Good Manners are ‘Inclusive’ not ‘Exclusive’

Rewards of Ballroom Dance For Youth

Dance Teaches:

•Teamwork & Discipline

•Music History & Appreciation

•Respect for Partners

•Leadership & Following

•Poise, Trust, & Self Confidence

The Benefits of Dancing:

•Great Exercise

•Low Impact & Aerobic

•Aids Balance

•Stress Reliever

•Improved Social Life

•Sense of Achievement & Pride

Offers an Alternative to Current Styles of Dance

•It is not lewd

•It does not offend

•It does not demean


Mad Hot Ballroom is the inspiring documentary that looks inside the lives of New York City public school kids who journey into the world of ballroom dancing and reveal pieces of themselves along the way.