I first wrote an introduction to Dancing Classrooms on CrossCurrents in September and started visiting six Pittsburgh elementary schools in October. It was undeniably seductive as the students moved from barely being able to touch and interact to a level of sophistication that was truly gratifying, as I wrote in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
This past weekend I attended Pittsburgh’s first-ever Colors of the Rainbow, a competition among the top six couples from each of the schools: Allegheny (yellow), Arlington (orange), Martin Luther King (purple), Phillips (green), Spring Hill (blue) and West Liberty (red).
Although there was only one gold medal, all of the schools were winners, from the autistic girl whoparticipated to the shy, never-to-smile boy who developed a grin of his own. The students who represented their schools at Allderdice High School were all champions.
It was heart-warming to watch the students parade down the aisle at the start. Arlington girls hadglittery black party dresses and Spring Hill had lovely blue creations. Others were all dressed to the nines and Allegheny added red ribbons in the girls’ hair. As for the boys, they all had freshly-pressed white shirts with ties to match their school colors.
Mark Rogalsky, prevention supervisor of Mercy Behavioral Health, offered opening remarks and introduced the energetic emcee, Jo Jo Graham, current director of Dancing Classrooms in Northeast Ohio and formerly a top teaching assistant to founder Pierre Dulaine. The trio of judges included Jospeh Aiken, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of USA Dance, Jennifer Christophel, site director for Dancing Classrooms in Western Maryland and Susan Gillis Krumen, dance instructor in the University of Pittsburgh’s school of education.
No one knew what to expect. For an inaugural event, all went smoothly, despite the wintery weatherconditions that threatened to throw a wrench into the event. Students demonstrated a remarkable aplomb, although they invariably got over-excited and tended to rush their ballroom patterns when enthusiastic friends and performers started to cheer.
For the record, Phillips took the gold, with Allegheny and Spring Hill coming in with the silver and Arlington, Martin Luther King and West Liberty following with the bronze. But the competitors set a very high standard for future Dancing Classrooms participants and deserved recognition all-around for their courageous performance.