Mad Hot Ballroom is back

Any parent knows that kids can and will surprise you.

For example, Danceworks‘ Mad Hot Ballroom program has challenged perceptions of what fifth and sixth graders in Milwaukee schools would love doing. But the success it has had at more than three dozen schools is a testament to the program and to the kids and their teaching artists.

For the sixth straight year, Danceworks has organized the Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap (MHBT) competition. The public event – free and open to all – takes place Saturday, May 12 at The Bradley Center, beginning at 10 a.m.

Nearly 2,000 kids from 43 schools will compete in Latin, swing and funky tap styles in the morning and they’ll waltz, salsa and swing in the afternoon, beginning at 12:40.

“From our research, we found that the students entered the MHBT program with ‘below average’ EQ skills, and throughout the course of the program, made significant gains in their EQ skills,” said Danceworks’ Executive Director Deborah Farris, referring to an “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence) research study of MHBT students conducted last year and funded by the Northwestern Mutual Foundation.

“In fact, more than half (54%) of participating students experienced positive EQ growth from the beginning to the end of MHBT. This level of advancement among students starting with ‘below average’ EQ is an outstanding marker of Danceworks’ ability to stimulate growth in those students who may need the program the most.”

Students spend 24 hours across 12 weeks learning from Danceworks’ professional teaching artists.

I’ve seen that students at Maryland Avenue Montessori School, located near the offices on the East Side, love the competition. Even if some begin the program with a skeptical eye, they soon are drawn in by the fun, the music and the athleticism involved. It’s infectious.

“We recognize how powerful dance can be in young people’s lives,” Farris said.

“Dance develops the discipline for physical activity, which helps establish lifelong fitness habits and supports overall wellness. MHBT gives students new energy for the school day and offers a chance for students to engage with classmates, get moving and feel good about staying active.”

The program was modeled after a similar one in New York City schools that was featured in the acclaimed documentary, “Mad Hot Ballroom.”

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