Thirty fifth-graders from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will show off the moves they learned in the ten-week “Ballroom MADNESS” school dance program when they represent their schools in the Ballroom MADNESS Elementary School Team Match Friday, December 11th.

The young dancers, students from John Muir Elementary and Will Rogers Learning Community in Santa Monica and Webster Elementary in Malibu, will vie for the coveted trophy at the competition scheduled from 10 to 11 a.m. in Barnum Hall at Santa Monica High School, 601 Pico Blvd. The public is invited to attend and admission is free.

Judges for the team match include former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and Donna McKechnie, Tony Award winner for the original Broadway production of “A Chorus Line” who is now in California with her one-woman show, “My Musical Comedy Life (Part 2).”

“I know how dance positively enriched my life and I wanted to offer children an opportunity to express their creativity in a setting that fosters respect, teamwork and accomplishment, ‘one step at a time,’” said Jane Dorian, the program’s executive director and co-founder.

Dorian and co-founder Daniel Ponickly created the arts education program two years ago from their shared passion for dance.

“Our program is great for all students,” said Ponickly, “but it is especially gratifying when we can serve urban kids — teaching them social and partnership skills, while providing them with a positive alternative to gangs and street life.”

The duo train a corps of dance teachers who work with the students in the structure and familiar environment of their regular classroom during their school day. Twice a week in a one-hour session, the youths dance meringue, foxtrot, rumba, tango, swing and waltz.

The students, who study the geography and cultures of the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Cuba, eastern Europe and the U.S., write essays about their first impressions and finally, what they learned throughout the program.

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