A non-competitive dancing program for NYC middle school children, BALLROOM BASIX™ has proven itself to children and educators alike, who "generally report that the kids are more polite with one another and get along better. Both agree that the program does, in fact, deter bullying.”
BALLROOM BASIX™ is a non-competitive dancing program for NYC middle school children, starting in the 6th grade. It is the ballroom brainchild of “Dr. Dance” (aka Founder/Artistic Director Sidney B. Grant), who launched the innovative arts-in-education program in the inner-city schools seven years ago.
“Through poise and politeness, we improve self-concept, concentration, cooperation, and camaraderie among classmates,” says Sidney. Starting in two 6th grade classes in 2008 with a just few dozen students, BALLROOM BASIX™ has served over 7,500 school children in more than 50 schools.
Social Graces & Life Skills
An award-winning dancer with a background in American-style Ballroom and Latin dancing and New York City’s 2011 USA Argentine Tango Champion, Sidney knows that mutual respect and teamwork are essential in life and dance. “From a historical perspective, social dancing was always an essential component of social graces.”
Due to the isolating effects of kids’ hand-held technology, and the epidemic of bullying in schools, Sidney created his meaningful motto: “Making manners matter…every move we make!” The program targets the first year of middle school, when children from different elementary schools come together and meet new peers.
“We’re not training these kids to audition for ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ we’re providing them critical life skills.” In the very first class, for example, Dr. Dance distributes name tags with “Miss” or “Mr.” above each of their names (i.e. “Ms. Maria”; “Mr. José” ). The children shake hands with every classmate using this more mature moniker and experience an identity shift, perceiving themselves and their peers as more courteous “ladies” and “gentlemen.”
At the end of the program, Sidney and his dedicated team of teaching artists survey the students and teachers to evaluate the experience. “Children often say they didn’t want to participate at first, but after a few classes, they really had fun. The educators generally report that the kids are more polite with one another and get along better. Both agree that the program does, in fact, deter bullying.”
Their hallmark is the BALLROOM BASIX™ BASH, where students from different schools get together for a non-competitive dance party. “Philosophically,” Grant says, “We don’t beat the other school, we meet the other school. There’s a world of difference between those two concepts.” The “leaders” from one school ask a “follower” from the other school to dance. “One of the hardest things to learn in life is to cordially meet a stranger,” says Dr. Dance. “We provide this vital skill as a part of our curricula’s culminating event.”
Sidney recalls that after one BASH, a student’s mom came up to him in tears. She told him that her son was starting to run with a bad crowd of boys. “Now he’s taking me by the arm to walk me across the street and holding the door open for me. In two months, you turned my son into a gentleman. I can’t put a price tag on that,” she said.
“We’re teaching kids etiquette in creative and engaging ways that can help shape them into mature young adults,” Sidney says. Want to get involved? Call and set up a BALLROOM BASIX BASH for you and your friends. “We teach adult beginners the same way we teach the 6th graders, so not only is it fun and easy, but you’re also supporting a great cause.”
You can also join their “Volunteer Visitor” program, partnering with the TA’s to dance with the school children. “Many volunteers say they are invigorated and energized by this inter-generational experience.” Several of Sidney’s wedding couples have also joined the Junior Board and create special fundraisers for the program.
“We provide respectful interaction among young people — without competition — regardless of ability, appearance or popularity. It’s a unique brand of fun, fitness, and fancy footwork!”
(Editor's Note: A much-praised dance instructor, Sidney also works with brides and grooms to prepare them for their first dance, whether traditional or unique, even at times combining several dance genres. See Wedding Dance Routine.)