The Buddy Visit — “Time to put the icing on!”

On April 10, fifth grade DCP students at Philadelphia Montessori Charter School participated in “The Buddy Visit” class – one of the most exciting residency highlights in the Dancing Classrooms curriculum. The Buddy Visit lesson marks the first time the children see two professionals dancing the same steps they are learning, and, most importantly, experience a grown-up lady and gentleman being elegant together, working as a team, and treating each other with respect.

Each DCP class typically has one Teaching Artist (TA). At the Buddy Visit lesson, which is scheduled as lesson 12 out of 20, the TA is joined by another TA of the opposite gender (the “Buddy”) in order to demonstrate dances and solicit observations from the students. The Buddy also gives feedback to the students on their dancing.

At Philadelphia Montessori, the children had the opportunity to see their TA, Belle Alvarez, dance with Mark McLeod. (Read more about Ms. Belle here.) The students began the class with a warm-up to “Hit the Road, Jack,” and Ms. Belle then introduced the students to her “elegant colleague Mr. Mark.” Belle and Mark demonstrated a total of six dances to the DCP students: the Merengue, the Foxtrot, the Rumba, the Tango, the Waltz, and the Swing. After each of the first four dances, Belle asked the students what they observed, what they liked about what they saw, and what they would like to try and incorporate into their own dancing. For the Merengue, some of the students observed that Belle and Mark had good dance posture, kept eye contact with each other, and smiled. For the Rumba, some students observed that Belle and Mark were elegant and smooth.

After the students made their observations, it was their turn to demonstrate the dance for Mark! Mark gave the students some compliments and suggestions on their dancing, and the students were then able to perform the dance one more time, incorporating Mark’s suggestions. For the Foxtrot, Mark observed that they had good rhythm but that they could make their moves a little crisper. He was pleased, though, that when some of the students were getting a step wrong, their partners gently helped and corrected them. For the Tango, Mark observed that they had serious faces (necessary when you’re dancing the Tango!), and that their “promenade arms” were high up. He encouraged them to “keep doing what you’re doing, and continue making it better.”

Throughout the lesson, Belle and Mark continually reinforced the idea that dancing with a partner takes team work. They stressed the importance of smiling at your teammate, saying hello and thank you to your partner, and that it’s ok if you make a mistake, because the important thing is that you not stop dancing, but rather work together.

Near the end of the class, Belle and Mark demonstrated the two dances that the students had not yet learned (but will in the coming weeks!), the Swing and Waltz, and then gave the students the opportunity to ask Mark questions. They asked him such questions as how long had he been a ballroom dancer (8 years) and does he like ballroom dancing (yes!)

The students really appreciated being able to see Belle perform each dance with a professional partner. In particular, some of the boys were really glad they had the opportunity to see a male dancer. One student, Qudir, said, “What I like most about ballroom dancing is that it shows that a male can also dance and you don’t have to be afraid to do what you want.” The students also hope to incorporate some of what they learned at the Buddy Visit. For example, Aniyah said, “the most important lesson I learned today was that I should keep count of the steps.” The students also like the fact that dancing allows them time to be together. Aniyah continued, “I like that we all get to dance together and have fun,” and Tajanay said, “We get to have quality time with each other and learn new things.” Finally, Khalil said, “at the start of the school year, we fifth graders, we didn’t really talk to each other, so I think this program helped us interact with each other a lot.”

See Khalil’s full interview below along with his dance moves!