What it's Like to Teach Elementary-Age Students Ballroom Dance

If you’ve seen the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom, you know you’re never too young to start learning and loving ballroom dance. The success of such programs as American Ballroom Theater’s Dancing Classrooms, which is featured in the film, also means there’s a greater demand for teachers. Co-directors Pierre Dulaine and Yvonne Marceau say they’re constantly on the lookout for instructors like Marianne Mylod.

 

After only two months of training, Mylod was sent out in the field to teach 4th, 5th and 6th graders at schools in the Bronx and Brooklyn. “I see alignment changes and a light in the face,” she says of her students. “Once they get accustomed to the concept of dancing with each other, they get so into it that they fight over partners,” she adds.

 

In addition to teaching movement, Mylod also encourages her students to respect one another and focuses on boosting their self-esteem. Dulaine says that one of the hardest parts of the job, though, is enduring the looks of disappointment on the faces of those not selected for the Rainbow Team, a specially selected group of first-year students who compete against Rainbow Teams from other participating schools. (Every student gets to perform in the grand finale.)

 

Inside Scoop
Coworkers: Each classroom’s academic teacher, who stays with the students during dance class
Tools of the Trade: Compilation CDs with songs for different ballroom genres (merengue, swing, fox trot, rumba, tango and waltz and “fun dances” like the Stomp, a hip-hop-style line dance), boom box (provided by each school), ballroom shoes and skirt or dress
Dance Background: jazz, African dance and ballet
Hours: 8:30 am to 2:40 pm. Generally, Mylod teaches from four to six classes a day in one school. She can handle up to three schools per 20-class residency and goes twice a week to each school.
Pay Range: $30-$40 per 50-minute class, or $4,000 to $7,000 per year (December-June).
Aggravations: That she can’t reach every dancer. “Some students won’t let you in,” she says.
Inspirations: Making a difference in children’s lives. Mylod explains: “One fifth-grade gentleman wrote a poem that stated ‘when I dance, I forget about bad stuff that happened to me.’”
Skill Set: The ability to give children familiar imagery, the know-how to make the steps sound easy, charisma and high energy
Education: Ballroom-dance training is necessary, but a specific degree is not.
Perks: “As a ballroom teacher, I see a transformation in my students when they are no longer slumped over staring at their shoes but are standing tall, with heads held high and smiles on their faces,” she says.
Off Season: Mylod sings in a band and an a capella trio. Her work with children has inspired her to write children’s books (many of her students become characters) and to pursue a master’s degree in elementary education. (At presstime she was in the application process.)
For More: americanballroomtheater.com.

(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

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