Charity Provides Free Ballroom Dance Lessons for Public School Students
article by Jennifer Higgins
Photography Baileah Arant and provided
Ballroom dance has been in the blood of retired William Jewell professor Will Adams, Ph.D., since the age of 13 in 1943 when his mother taught him the waltz. Since then, he continued to learn, and he has taught dance lessons in some capacity since 1951. Then the 2005 movie Mad Hot Ballroom inspired Adams, his late wife Eleaner, and his dance teaching partner Paula Marie Daub, to begin their non-profit charity, Culture Through Ballroom Dance. Their goal is to teach public school students the joy of ballroom dance. Since 2006, the instructors with the charity, under the leadership of Adams and Daub, have taught hundreds of students not only how to ballroom dance, but how to become more confident as well.
The pilot program began in 2006, with KCMO public schools, and included four schools, lasted 12 weeks, and featured 75 kids in an end-of-the-season festival.
“This program was well-received. We taught swing dance, merengue and the tango. It was a joint effort with the FACS (Family and Consumer Services) program; the kids in that class made costumes for the dance at the festival,” Adams says.
After that pilot program, the program flourished with classes in 15 different schools and three different school districts. There are many options available for interested schools, from a one-time lesson to 22 classes throughout a semester. They have taught high school juniors and seniors in preparation for dancing at prom to teaching students Latin dances for Cinco de Mayo. The possibilities are endless.
Adams feels strongly that he is not just teaching ballroom dance, but rather he’s doing social work through the lessons, reaching students that possibly can’t be reached in other ways. He tells the story of a 5th grader named Steve, who was so shy and socially awkward that no one wanted to dance with him. Adams’ partner Daub had Steve assist her in teaching the steps and the student’s confidence soared throughout the lessons. He began playing with other kids at recess, and his grades went up.
“Of course, it’s not learning dance steps that does this; it’s the socialization and self esteem. Other activities can produce the same effect–team sports, band, orchestra, even close order drill (the Marching Cobras). But ballroom dancing does all that these activities accomplish and teaches students in the early stages of puberty to work as a team with a member of the opposite gender. The immediate goal of our program is to teach people to dance. But we often end up doing social work as well,” Adams says.
Inspired by a similarly named William Jewel College ball, the first annual Boogie Ball was held on February 14 at the Signature Air Flight Support hanger housing the TWA History Museum. It was a fundraiser for Culture Through Ballroom Dance to continue to sponsor dance lessons for schools both north and south of the river for 5th graders through high school students.
“Our idea for the Boogie Ball is to raise funds to offer free dance lessons to as many area schools as possible,” Adams says.
More information can be found on their website CultureBallroomDance.com. Any school interested in having the program serve their students should call or email Paula Marie Daub at 816.454.2419, firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the list. They will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.