Inspired by the hit documentary Mad Hot Ballroom, Jerry and Linda Topez, studio owners of the West Reading studio, looked around their local community to see what they could do.
They found a partnership with an elementary school about five blocks from the studio. Every Thursday, after school, students walk over to the studio for lessons in ballroom dancing.
When the program first started, the children showed up in sloppy clothes, more appropriate for the playground than the ballroom. That changed once Jerry, (jokingly nicknamed “The Sergeant” by some of his instructors) stressed the importance of appearances. Now the boys wear neck ties, black pants, and white shirts when they come to dance.
Starting out with the waltz and then the rumba, to give them a feel for both styles of dancing, the children seemed to enjoy the rhythmic dances the most. The cha-cha and merengue were some of their favorites!
About 60 children are enrolled in this program, giving them the opportunity to gain a renewed sense of self-confidence, discipline, and personal achievement. As a testimony to the powers of dancing, one student told his pediatrician (who happened to be another student at the studio) that his after-school lessons were “the most wonderful experience” he’d ever had, “affecting his whole life.”
Even with so many children at the studio, Jerry and Linda were able to maintain discipline. And, along with learning how to dance the cha-cha, the children all gained a respect for women and lessons in the importance in courtesy and manners.