Home & + | Search
Featured Categories: Special Focus | Performance Reviews | Previews | DanceSpots | Arts and Education | Press Releases
Join ExploreDance.com's email list | Mission Statement | Copyright notice | The Store | Calendar | User survey | Advertise
Click here to take the ExploreDance.com user survey.
Your anonymous feedback will help us continue to bring you coverage of more dance.
SPOTLIGHT:
ARTS AND EDUCATION
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
ExploreDance.com Kickstarter Campaign

The ExploreDance.com Kickstarter campaign is live! Please consider backing our campaign to help us expand our coverage of dance.
www.kickstarter.com/projects/1306220552/exploredancecom
ExploreDance.com (Magazine)
Web
Other Search Options
Julie Hatfield
Arts and Education
Dance Teacher Profiles
Interviews
American Tango
Ballet
Ballroom
Cha-Cha
Contradance
Jazz Dance
Modern/Contemporary
Rhumba
Swing
Tap
Waltz
United States
Massachusetts
Boston, MA
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
******* ** **
exploredance.com

Ballroom Dancing for Fun and Athletic Credit at Boston's Commonwealth School

by Julie Hatfield
April 2, 2009
Boston, MA
They can choose from basketball, fencing, fitness, squash, yoga or dance, but lately, students at the private Commonwealth School in Boston are eschewing the more traditional gym sports and choosing ballroom dance for their winter term athletic requirement. Boys, too.

The high school, located in Boston's Back Bay, started offering ballroom dancing at the nearby Arthur Murray Dance Studio just a few years ago, and this year, 14 out of the school's 154 students, chose to waltz, tango, cha cha and swing rather than sweat it out on the basketball court or gym floor. So three times a week, after their academic classes end, the group walks the few blocks from their school over to the dance studio to learn the basic steps of classical ballroom dance with teacher Christine McCarthy. "The trickiest thing with them," says McCarthy of her students, who are some of Boston's brightest, "is to use phrases and words that will keep their attention." As she lines them up for a lesson in rumba, she uses the word "amalgamate," because it means to blend, consolidate or unify, "and that's what we do with all the separate steps they've learned when they put it into dancing," she smiles. "It's like learning trigonometry," said Emma Sunog, 14, a ninth grader who said she signed up for dance "because it's something I'd never done before."

"It sounded fun," explained Layla Muchnik, 15, a tenth grader who said she would probably use what she's learned in this after-school activity to dance when she's older as well.

McCarthy chooses music that is familiar to high schoolers in 2009, but sometimes they ask for older music as well. When we saw them they had just asked for Cher singing "Do You Believe in Love?" Love is not what they're looking for in these classes, and McCarthy says they don't even care whether they're dancing with a member of their same sex or the opposite. Most of the time females have to dance with females because of the disparity of genders in this class, but McCarthy makes sure that everyone dances with everyone before the class is finished.

The reason Tili Sokolov, 16 and in the 11th grade, signed up for dance, she noted, is because she was not interested in competitive sports. "And it finished earlier than the other sports," she admitted, which meant she could get home earlier to start her homework. Also, Sokolov does contra dancing outside of school and enjoys a variety of dance activities. Alex Grant, 17 and a senior, said he had danced before and "I didn't like any of the other choices" of athletic activities offered at the school. Tango is his favorite dance.

Emma Brennan-Wydra, 16, danced when she was in the fifth grade. Now she's in the tenth, and said her mother, who still dances ballet, influenced her choice of athletic endeavor this year. Peter Hall, 16, told us that his grandmother's advice had a part in his choice of sports this year. "She thought it would be a good idea for me to learn to dance because she loved dancing herself," he noted. "She said that the first tragedy of her life was that she wasn't Shirley Temple in 'Beauty and the Beast,' and the second was that she realized that she would never dance with Fred Astaire."

We watched these high school students go through a series of relatively complex steps, ending with the "Cuban walk," which McCarthy explained by telling them that "Dancing is just walking in funny ways."

Jacquelynne Curry, the director of dance at Commonwealth, sends students at the tiny school out to professional teachers for whatever type of dancing they ask, as the school is too small for a full dance staff. In-house she teaches ballet, jazz and modern dance. "If they want to learn tap," she noted, " I send them to the best tap teacher in town; when they want to learn ballroom I send them to Arthur Murray. There are more students interested in dance now, and that's great. It's a natural movement. People speak with their bodies, and there's a dancer inside of everyone. Everyone wants to move. Dancing gives teens discipline, technique, and a social outlet, and as to the latter, what teenager doesn't want to get next to someone else?"

At the Commonwealth School, their prom is April 25, and the students are concentrating for that dance. What they, and their chaperones, are hoping to see are their steps, danced with skill, and everyone having a great time. And treating each other with respect, of course. From what we have seen of their dance classes, we are sure they will.
Tili Sokolov, 16, and Molly Zimetbaum, 15, practice a dance move at Arthur Murray Studio in Boston as teacher Christine McCarthy looks on approvingly.

Tili Sokolov, 16, and Molly Zimetbaum, 15, practice a dance move at Arthur Murray Studio in Boston as teacher Christine McCarthy looks on approvingly.

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Leland


Christine McCarthy teaches a Commonwealth School student

Christine McCarthy teaches a Commonwealth School student

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Leland


Christine McCarthy teaches Commonwealth School students

Christine McCarthy teaches Commonwealth School students

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Leland


Arthur Murray teacher Christine McCarthy leads a group of high school students in Boston in ballroom dance moves. The students signed onto the class as their athletic requirement for the semester.

Arthur Murray teacher Christine McCarthy leads a group of high school students in Boston in ballroom dance moves. The students signed onto the class as their athletic requirement for the semester.

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Leland


Arthur Murray teacher Christine McCarthy, left, demonstrates a dance turn for Boston high school students Tili Sokolov, 16, and Emma Brennan-Wydra, 16. The students took the course in place of other athletic offerings for their winter term at the Commonwealth School.

Arthur Murray teacher Christine McCarthy, left, demonstrates a dance turn for Boston high school students Tili Sokolov, 16, and Emma Brennan-Wydra, 16. The students took the course in place of other athletic offerings for their winter term at the Commonwealth School.

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Leland

ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
* **** ****


ExploreDance.com
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
******* ******
exploredance.com


home || view our calendar || the store || copyright information || join our mailing list || mission statement
Search for articles by
Performance Reviews, Places to Dance, Fashion, Photography, Auditions, Politics, Health