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West Zone students make mark at dance competition

By Staff | Apr 29, 2016

For 10 weeks, the fifth-graders memorized their steps, practiced, and learned to become better young ladies and gentlemen in the process.

Saturday, hundreds of parents and teachers from eight schools jammed into the Miramar Design Center in Estero to watch all that work come to fruition at the Colors of the Rainbow Team Match dance competition.

Of the eight teams, three, Tropic Isles, Dr. Carrie D. Robinson Littleton, and J. Colin English elementary schools, were from North Fort Myers.

These were the Lee County schools that participated in the Dancing Classrooms program, sponsored by the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools and Miromar Outlets, where children learned life skills such as respect, confidence, self-esteem and teamwork.

Rodney Lopez, emcee of the event and global program director of Dancing Classrooms, said the performance was exceptional and that every year he comes to Lee County, the talent gets better.

“The level of dancing and commitment has increased and it shows in their performance,” Lopez said, who spent the day getting the parents and kids jazzed up. “This gives me much joy that for me I want to match the energy in the room and help curate a fun event.”

Spectators filled the three decks of the building, creating a stadium feel. When the teams of five couples arrived on the dance floor, wearing the colors of the rainbow, an eruption of applause drowned out whatever music was playing. Lopez asked the crowd to stay quiet for the first few moments of the dance so the children could get the rhythm down before the cue to go crazy.

The competition was broken into three rounds; the first, where one couple per school danced their assigned routines; merengue, tango, rumba, foxtrot, and swing.

In round two, the same dancers drew from a hat to perform a different dance, and the final, non-judged round was where the alternates danced.

The judges certainly had their work cut out for them, such as Lori Oliver, CEO and founder of the Naples Performing Arts Center. – who was high-fiving the dancers as they walked off the floors after each dance.

“There are amazing. What they’re doing in the lives of these kids is forever. The confidence they gave them, the talent they pulled out of them blows my mind,” Oliver said. “They learn to interact with the opposite sex at an early age, and that’s wonderful.”

All three North schools gave a great accounting of themselves, with English earning bronze medals and Littleton and Tropic Isles winning silver.

Lehigh Elementary won the event for the fifth time in six years. Also participating were Bonita Springs, Colonial and Tortuga Preserve elementary schools and James Stephens International Academy.

Joe Williams, J. Colin English principal, said he was proud of all his students’ performances, and they learned something valuable in the process.

“It’s been an exposure to an entirely different culture. They have never experienced the arts, and for them to get this opportunity to dance with partners from their school and compete, is a great experience,” Williams said. “They did a great job and genuinely had a lot of fun.”

Siana Poteet, a dancer from Littleton, said she had a lot of fun dancing.

“I liked seeing my teammates go out and have fun. I learned that everything we do isn’t just for winning, It’s to have fun, and I learned a lot of dances I never knew before,” Poteet said.

“It gave me a chance to experience dancing. I was really nervous, but I learned all the dances,” said Julian Domenech, another Littleton dancer.

For Marshall Bower, president and CEO of the foundation, it was the same as it ever was, leaving him with a smile.

“You see the joy in these children’s faces, their family’s faces, and the chance for these kids to act like young ladies and gentlemen,” Bower said. “That’s more important than just learning to dance. How they learn to interact with others for the rest of their lives. It’s lifelong gift.”