Monday, November 2, 2009

A Ballroom Dancing Experience

It was Wednesday, Oct. 14th, and it was going to be an early and long day. It began with me arriving at the BUGS Campus at 8 am. I had some last minute details to finish up before venturing to Johnston Square Elementary School to pick up the 11 students who were going to be performing at the Hippodrome Pavilion Hall for the yearly Lights On Luncheon being held by the Maryland State Department of Education. I had picked up one student earlier on my way to campus. He is a Paul Laurence Dunbar student.

I arrived on campus, printed out some last minute paperwork, got the keys to the van I would be using, and gathered a breakfast snack for the kids to have when we arrived at the Hippodrome. I was picking them up at 9 am and left a 30 minute window for students who wanted to change before leaving the school, bathroom breaks, and pictures from any of the teachers. Good thing, I did!! They needed it and so did I. Bustling around, it gave me a few minutes to gather my frenetic energy and slow it down. Admittedly, I was excited for them and had to contain it.

We had done so much work preparing for this day. Towards the end of our BUGS Summer Session, we were visited by representatives of MSDE. They wanted to see what progress we were making with our students and how our program day was operating. In July, we were awarded the William H. White Award for Outstanding After-School Program from 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
After viewing my class hard at work on the music for the puppet show we would be presenting, Heather Rebstad, our program director, informed me that our program was asked to do a short performance at the Lights On Luncheon at the Hippodrome in October. Needless to say, I was very excited. What a great opportunity for our program and our students. Since the ballroom dancing component was so successful, it was a no brainer. Our students would do a ballroom dancing routine.

Then I had to get down to determining which students to choose. I needed students whom I knew would pick up the choreography very well, execute it equally as well, be committed, be disciplined, represent our program well when they were not dancing and have parents who would understand, support and encourage this incredible opportunity. Young people want to be involved in so many projects and yet, we need to have the full support of the parents as well. It gives it another level of focus and importance. It teaches the student follow-through, commitment, discipline and perseverance. All of which they need in order to have continued success in any arena.

After I gathered them, we headed to the Hippodrome. Once we arrived, they ate their breakfast snack and drank their juice. After some other dressing situations, we practiced a bow. Each student would have an opportunity at the end of the ballroom dance presentation to be individually introduced. We then headed into a huge and beautifully set-up pavilion to have a brief rehearsal in the space so they would be comfortable with where they would be performing and know what directions to face and such.

Just as the program began, the remaining BUGS Staff arrived with the parents of the performing students. All of the students were well-dressed and well-mannered. Everyone complimented them on their appearance, their behavior, and looked forward to seeing them perform the luncheon. Everyone had an appetizing lunch and even had a key-chain measuring tape and a box of small candies to take with them once the luncheon was over.

After the students finished eating their lunch, I gathered them up and took them in the foyer to get ready and calm down before the actual performance. The attendees listened to Jose Rico who is in the Education Department at the White House. As the talk went on, they began to get a little restless. Their nerves were getting the best of them. "Just be a little more patient! We'll be dancing in a few moments." I said to them. "I'm ready to dance!" "I'm nervous!" "What if I make a mistake?" These were just a few of the comments made as they waited. The time was getting closer. The speaker was done.

They were lined up, partnered, and ready to go. After their introduction from me, they entered the pavilion calmly and elegantly. The music began and they danced. They performed the Tango first. They were together. Clean. Smiling. Enthusiastic. The Tango ended and they immediately went into their positions for the Swing. This would be a crowd pleaser. As the music played, they bounced their shoulders, smiled at each other and the audience, brightened their faces and just gave a great performance. Once the song ended, they bowed and the attendees gave them a STANDING OVATION! Thunderous applause!!

They were introduced and then exited, partnered, from the pavilion. I gathered them outside in the foyer and before I could say anything, I CRIED!! I was so full of pride, joy and happiness for them. I got myself together. I told them, "I am so proud of each one of you! You all did such a wonderful job! I cannot thank you enough for your hard work, your commitment, your dedication, and your behavior. I want so much for you! And more importantly, I love each one of you!"

We gathered our things and headed back to Johnston Square. The day wasn't over. BUGS would still be happening in the afternoon and they needed to be ready for that.

One thing I did miss, Nancy Grasmick, the Maryland State Superintendent, complimented the BUGS Students and said so many glowing things about them.

What a great day! Congratulations to the BUGS Students for a spectacular performance!! You can accomplish so much!

The students who participated in this ballroom dancing presentation are...

Willis Brandon, Jr., partnered with Bria Sample
Kenard Dansbury, Jr., partnered with Angel Ramsey
Jeremiah Gaskins partnered with Ronoah Johnson
Jerrell Mack partnered with De'Asia Edwards
Jerwon Mack partnered with Kerron Webb
Harry Santos, III, partnered with Andrea Carmichael

I cannot thank them enough! Way to go, BUGS!!! Enjoy the ballroom dancing presentation video below.

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