Best foot forward

Gallantry reigns at the Colors of the Rainbow ballroom dance competition.


There was a Cinderella moment at this year’s Colors of the Rainbow Team Match, the ballroom dance competition for fifth-graders who excelled in the Dancing Classrooms program brought into their schools by NJPAC.


During the opening promenade , one young lady accidentally slipped out of a dance shoe and had to continue the procession without it. In a princely gesture, a male classmate three couples behind her, without missing a beat, swooped down stealthily to retrieve it. By pertly holding out their tea-length skirts in a curtsy position, the girls shielded their teammate from the audience’s view as she buckled up.


What appeared to be a fleeting and insignificant blip actually spoke volumes about the values that Dancing Classrooms impart to students and how genuinely they develop social graces, without a hint of self-consciousness.  The 10-week program teaches students to slow-walk a tango or shimmy the merengue with both discipline and abandon; in the process, they also learn respect, collaboration and elegance.


On to the team match, which was held for the seventh consecutive year on June 7: The schools on stage, which rose to the top in an earlier semifinal of 11 contenders, were All Saints Catholic Academy in Bayonne (the orange team); Notre Dame Academy in Palisades Park (red); St. Cassian School in Montclair (blue), and Colin Powell Elementary School (yellow), Thomas A. Edison School (purple) and Veterans Elementary School (green), all in Union City.  Under the direction of emcee Rodney Lopez, Executive Director of Dancing Classrooms, and under the watchful eyes of three judges, the partners snapped into a proper dance frame and listened attentively for their musical cues before executing a merengue, foxtrot, rumba, tango or swing.



The grand trophy and gold medals were awarded to the team from Veterans Elementary School, which high-fived congratulations to all the other medal winners before mugging for the cameras in a group hug around the loving cup.  


It’s one of the “happiest nights of the year” at NJPAC, according to President and CEO John Schreiber, as he surveyed a Victoria Theater filled with proud parents, friends, relatives and educators. Audience members were dressed to the nines in their team’s colors and cheered spectacularly while waving flags. Their enthusiasm was touchingly rewarded at the conclusion of the event, when misty-eyed adults were invited to dance with their young ladies and gentlemen on stage.  


NJPAC’s Department of Arts Education is the regional provider of Dancing Classrooms, which is poised to enter its 25th year and is active in 21 cities. The organization, which drew worldwide attention via the 2005 documentary Mad Hot Ballroom, is committed to building social awareness, confidence and self-esteem in children through social dance.


The idea to host Dancing Classrooms at NJPAC was first floated by its supporters, Marian and David Rocker, who celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary at the team match. Support is also provided in part by Jennifer A. Chalsty.


The evening’s sponsor, Goya Foods, created a welcoming presence in Prudential Lobby, where tables were set up to celebrate the cuisines of the various dances’ countries of origin. Visitors sampled dishes such as a red bean and rice salad (representing Cuba’s rumba), sipped fruited coconut water and mango sparkling water, and obtained nutritional information and recipes provided by Goya’s MyPlate (MiPlato) healthy eating initiative.


June 12, 2018