Peggy S. Paar understands the big difference a little dancing can make in a person’s life. Many times, I have left Danceworks on a Friday evening just as Peggy and her husband Michael are arriving. They end their workweeks dancing together in our adult ballroom class.
By day, Peggy is the General Music Teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Wauwatosa and that’s how we first met nine years ago–Roosevelt was one of the first schools to sign up for Mad Hot.
When Danceworks started the program, our goal was to serve city schools that were lagging in arts education and gym. Early on, we began to receive requests from suburban schools as well, and opened the program up because we didn’t want a segregated program. Dance is a great vehicle to bring people together that wouldn’t otherwise connect.
As the program developed, Mad Hot self-selected its participating schools. Suburban schools didn’t have time for it. Of our 43 schools participating today, 39 are Milwaukee Public Schools; two are private city schools and two are suburban.
Peggy has been one of our greatest advocates over the years and has led Roosevelt to share the joy of dance far beyond the structure of the program. Roosevelt’s Mad Hot students share their newly developed skills at performances both in and outside of school—at nursing homes, restaurants, even local grocery stores every year.
Peggy is proud of the students’ achievements and shares it whenever she has the chance. When I visited the school last week, she had some wonderful words to share about the program along with the students’ dancing.
“The growth in the young people has been enormous. At the beginning, the students were shy, embarrassed, reluctant and terribly concerned with who their partners were going to be. Now they know they can dance respectfully with anyone in the program. There is this new energy, with lots of smiles, as the boys confidently lead the girls in twirls and twists. Sometimes I’ll see students working out a step by the water cooler, or while they are waiting for a class to start or out on the playground.
“Students are communicating and talking with classmates they’ve never noticed before. My relationship has also changed with these young people. I see them in a whole new light and I feel they now have new skills that will help them as they transition to middle school and as they continue their life journey.
“The arts really make a difference to every student in the public school. This is a program that makes a difference, not just with the dancers, but within the school, the community, and with the families.”
We look forward to seeing all our ballroom and tap students give testimony to Peggy’s words at the Mad Hot Competition next weekend. But don’t take our word for it. Come experience it first hand and join us Saturday, May 21, at the BMO Harris Bradley Center for the 10th Anniversary Mad Hot Competition. Tap begins at 9:30 am and Ballroom at 1:30 pm.
And then…I’ve been talking about taking that Friday evening Ballroom class with my husband. Anyone want to join us…? You don’t have to have a partner. Everyone dances together!
Welcome to the Danceworks blog, where we're hoping to share a little bit more about the heart and soul behind Danceworks… what made us join the dance and keeps us dancing, what keeps us inspired, and where we can share some of the stories worth telling.