Spreading the love of ballroom danceFeb 23, 2022 07:42PM ● By Jet Burnham
Lauren Heath, a member of the Copper Hills Ballroom Dance Team, helps detangle elementary students at Falcon Ridge Elementary. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
There’s an extensive ballroom dance program in Utah County elementary schools, but that is not the case in the Salt Lake area.
Anna Bay hopes to change that. As both a ballroom teacher at Copper Hills High School and a mother, she is using her connections to spread the love of ballroom dance.
She started by offering an after-school ballroom workshop at Falcon Ridge Elementary, where four of her children attend. The workshop, which runs October to March, is open to students in grades 2–6. About 40 students attend to learn basic ballroom dance steps and to have some fun.
“They get crazy because they're little,” Bay said. “We just roll with it. It probably looks more chaotic than it is, but they learn so much through the chaos.”
Bay uses popular kids music to teach the waltz, merengue, swing and group line dances.
“I try and find something that the kids can relate to because when I don't, they get a little bit more distracted,” Bay said. “If it's something they can recognize, they stay more on-task.”
She said the after-school activity gives kids the opportunity to belong to something. They also gain valuable skills.
“They think they’re just having fun dancing,” Bay said. But she said they are also learning balance and memorization. She also includes tidbits of information about the history and cultural backgrounds of the dances.
Bay said ballroom dance also teaches social skills—how to talk to others face to face, keeping eye contact, and how to ask someone to dance—skills Bay feels students haven’t been able to practice for the past two years.
“I feel like they’ve kind of had to relearn how to interact with people after COVID,” Bay said.
Members of Copper Hills High’s ballroom dance team, which Bay coaches, help teach the workshop. CHHS senior and ballroom team member Darci Glad said she feels like a celebrity when she walks in and the kids rush to give her a hug.
Glad said she enjoys working with the younger students as much as they love working with her. As a dancer who focuses so much on precision and technique, she said it is good for her to be around the kids.
“Being here just reminds me to have fun with it and to help others find the fun in it,” Glad said.
Senior Lauren Heath is also a member of the CHHS ballroom dance team. She was first exposed to ballroom dance by taking a social ballroom dance class at Sunset Ridge Middle School. There, she saw the high school ballroom dance team perform.
“I thought they were just the coolest people in the world, and I thought I definitely want to go do that,” Heath said. She now takes every ballroom dance class she can at CHHS. She hopes to inspire a love of dance in the elementary kids she works with each week.
The elementary students will be performing for their parents at Falcon Ridge Elementary Thursday March 10 at 6:30 p.m. They will perform in partnered dances and in group line dances.
Bay hopes to generate more interest in after-school ballroom programs in other local schools. She has already been approached to teach at other elementary schools and to share her curriculum with other teachers. For more information, contact her at [email protected]