For five years, Lehigh Elementary School set the gold standard in the annual “Colors of the Rainbow” team match dance competition.
On Saturday, at the Miromar International Design Center in Estero, a new champion was crowned, much to the delight of the winning team, which could barely believe it.
Dr. Carrie D. Robinson Littleton Elementary School in North Fort Myers won its first championship at the 11th annual competition.
Eight Lee County schools were among the finalists.
The Colors of the Rainbow is the culminating event of the Dancing Classrooms program, put on annually by the Foundation of Lee County Public Schools.
More than 900 fifth-graders at eight schools learn dancing as a vehicle to help enhance self-esteem, build teamwork and teach respect for the opposite sex, among many other things.
The students learned ballroom dancing for 10 weeks and then took part in fall and spring demonstrations at Miromar Outlets. The schools then picked their best dancers, six boys and six girls, to be part of this annual event.
Each school brought large contingents of teachers and parents – all of whom were quite vocal in their support.
“The parents get to come in and see this elegant setting and (the students) show off what they’ve learned,” said Marshall T. Bower, president and CEO of the Foundation. “The kids learn to respect each other and about the culture from where the dances came from and the differences from all this.”
Rodney Lopez, the emcee and executive director of Dancing Classrooms, said these children are reaching the age of social interaction, and it’s a celebration of what the kids have learned for the entire community.
“Right about the time they’re entering adolescence, they are learning safe and respectful ways of touching and interacting. These are important skills as they enter their teenage years,” Lopez said.
Not only did the fifth-graders show grace and elegance on the floor, but also how they have grown to become respectful young “ladies and gentlemen,” their courtesy title on the program brochure.
Littleton Principal Monica Broughton said winning was nice, but the life lessons these children learned will stay with them forever.
“This is exciting. I’m so proud of my students. They did an amazing job. This is our fifth year doing it. We were asked by the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools and we thought it would be a great opportunity for our students to participate,” Broughton said. “It’s about our students maturing to be young ladies and gentlemen.”
Dancers from the eight elementary schools – Bonita Springs, James Stephens International Academy, Lehigh, Franklin Park, Littleton, Hancock Creek, Tropic Isles and Villas, – did the Merengue, Tango, Rumba, Foxtrot and Swing, first with teams that specialize in that particular dance, then pulled out of a hat.
A third round, with the team captains, was then performed in the event of a tie before the awards were given out.
It was there that Littleton learned it had won.
“It’s an amazing feeling. It’s really cool. I’m so happy. I thought we had a chance,” said dancer Aubrey Beougher. “I knew how good Lehigh was, but I was happy when they were called for second place.”
“Me and my friend were freaking out. We thought there were more schools competing and that maybe we didn’t win anything,” said dancer Marc Mandat. “We thought Lehigh was going to win, and it was amazing we won.”
Littleton’s team was Aubrey Beougher, Jyrah Bowman, Karlie Creque-Knight, Paige Kelch, Gabrieshka Lopez-Feliciano, Iyonna Ross, Jaden Concepcion, Devin Facey, Marc Mandat, Eban McDermott, Caden Montalvo and Xavier Stewart.