Colors of the Rainbow 2002 Finals
Commentary by Robert Abrams
June 11, 2002
The roar of the crowd was deafening. The NBA finals? A FIFA World Cup match? An Ivy League hockey game? No. This was the sixth annual finals of the Colors of the Rainbow ballroom dance competition. Nine teams representing public schools from throughout New York City competed at PS 87 for the title of best 5th and 6th grade dancers. Organized by Pierre Dulaine and Yvonne Marceau of the American Ballroom Theater, the event ran with the smoothness of some of the best professional dance competitions I have seen.
The event started with practice time in each of five dances: Merengue, Foxtrot, Rumba, Tango and Swing. The teams then exited the gym and reentered in a formal procession. Each team had one couple entered in each dance, which gave each team a strength of ten dancers. The dancers were dressed as befit the occasion, with a couple of tuxedos and a poodle skirt in evidence.
The competition started with a semi-final round featuring all nine teams. The teams were PS 105 and 127 from Brooklyn, PS 144 from Queens, CS 211 and PS 121 from the Bronx, and PS 11, 150, the Clinton School, and 87 from Manhattan. Six teams were called back by a panel of distinguished judges (Shelley Freydont, Arte Phillips and Stanley McCalla). The students were able to show off the character of each dance. It was clear that the students were dancing a set sequence of steps, giving the heats the feel of a group performance, even though couples were competing individually. Pierre gave a "5678" at the start of each heat to get the students moving together. While not identical to "real" ballroom competition, these constraints make sense at this educational level. The students danced with passion, and many had fairly precise bronze level technique with their feet clearly coming together at the right moments. If I had any criticism, and I offer this criticism in the context that overall the students were wonderful and since they were wonderful they are capable of taking some constructive criticism to reach new heights, it would be that some of the students need to relax a little on the dance floor and show the audience they are having fun. When you observed some of these students after dancing, the expression on their faces clearly showed that they did have fun on the dance floor. Letting that come through while dancing is more difficult than it sounds, and plenty of more advanced, older dancers have just as much trouble with it. In the smooth dances, they could try reaching their steps a little more.
As I said above, overall the students were wonderful. A dance competition should ideally be a learning experience as well as a summative judgement, so the suggestions are offered in that light. I expect great things of all of the competitors. Today P.S. 87, tomorrow Blackpool!
The competition was won by P.S. 11.
The dancing classrooms program served over 4000 students this year. All of today's 90 dancers were winners. For that matter, just getting on the dance floor makes you a winner because it demonstrates confidence, poise and many other traits we strive to teach our children. ExploreDance.com wishes all of the participants success in their future endeavors (dancing or otherwise), and we eagerly look forward to next year's competition.
For more on the Dancing Classrooms, see Yvonne Marceau's article
Below are a few pictures from the competiton.