's ballroom dance troupe placed second and took home a gold medal at the Colors of the Rainbow grand finals at the World Financial Center on Saturday.
Throughout the year, more than 200 teams—comprising 25,000 children—took part in the Dancing Classrooms, a program that teaches ballroom dance and hosts competitions for 5th, 8th and 12th graders. The grand final competition was whittled down to just nine teams on Saturday, composed of six couples. Each performed either the Merengue, Foxtrot, Rumba, Tango or Swing.
Artistic director and world-renowned dancer Pierre Dulaine—who was depicted in the 2006 movie “Take the Lead”—said that the goal is to teach respect and self-esteem.
“It is a social development program,” he said. “It's not the steps that I worry about. They learn about respecting the woman and the man. They remember to be polite; for gentlemen to open the door and to get up and let the lady sit down. These are skills that they don't learn at school.”
This was the first year that the 3-year-old Hutchinson team made it to the finals, a feat the children attribute to having devoted weekends and after-school time to practicing. One student missed a basketball tournament on Saturday, another quit the football team.
“Hard work and dedication really does pay off," said coach Jacqueline Soccodato. "They made this a priority and they came so far. They did an amazing job.”
While the Hutch students were pleased with their performance, some couldn't help but to mourn the loss of first place that seemed within reach.
“I am disappointed that we didn't get the trophy, but I feel good that we got second place,” said Yumin Lee, 11, of Pelham.
Lee explained that she, along with most of her teammates, did not know how to dance before joining the team. Now, she finds the art exciting and hopes to pursue private lessons.
“At first I was nervous and now it is part of my life,” she said.
Her favorite styles of dance are the Merengue and Tango, where “you have to be sharp” with your movements, explained Lee.
“It's amazing how much they picked up,” said Richard Wisniewski, whose son Adam practiced every day for the last three weeks.
Pelham mom Gina Avila said that her daughter, Angelica Castro, 11, was extremely shy before she started dancing.
“She has gained so much confidence, she looked forward to going to school every day," Castro said. “She is so committed. It definitely changed her.”
At the competition's close, PS 152 of Queens took the top spot as Gold with Distinction. Hutch received the Gold alongside PS 31 of Queens. PS 69 of Staten Island, PS 144 of Queens and PS 123 of Brooklyn were awarded Silver medals. PS 169 of Brooklyn, PS 198 of the Bronx and PS 48 of Manhattan were awarded Bronze medals.
Congratulations to Huchinson Elementary School 5th grade dancers Christopher Herrera and Kiera O'Connor; Jacob Dawson and Lorena Maggiore; Santiago Casanova and Angelica Castro; Adam Wisniewski-Jensen and Yumin Lee; Jake Ryan and Viviana Samudio; Nicosie Worrell and Christiana Silva; and Dance Instructor Ivelisse Hornyak and Coach Jacqueline Soccodato.