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She Wouldn’t Dance

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I visited one of our 96 ballroom and tap classes recently at Brown Street Academy. The secretary, Ms. Buford, welcomed me at the office as I checked in and then directed me to the basement room where the ballroom class was being held.

I got off the elevator and made my way down the halls of classrooms towards the sound of the music. A lone student was hanging outside the door, hands in pockets, head down.

“Is this where the ballroom class is?” I stopped and asked, knowing full well the answer, but wanting to find out why she wasn’t dancing.

“Uh-huh…” she said, turning away from me, hugging the wall.

“What’s your name?”

“Aranna…” she mumbled.



“Arianna. What a pretty name. My name is Miss Debbie. Are you supposed to be dancing?”

“…………Ah don wanna.”

“You don’t want to…? Why not?  You look like a dancer!”  She moved further away from me and I went on into a room filled with more boys than I have ever seen in all eight years of doing this program. It was great. The girls were far outnumbered but they were taking turns and making it work. The school principal, Ms. Morris, was sitting across the room observing the energetic moving bodies.

Brown Street

Sarah DiMaggio with Brown Street students

Danceworks Ballroom instructor, Miss Sarah, was talking the students through a phrase of steps and everyone was following, including the classroom teacher, Ms. Smith. What a happy sight.

I went to introduce myself to Ms. Morris, who stood up and greeted me.

“Your kids look great!” I said as I pulled up a chair beside her.

“They’re doing okay.”

“It sure means a lot that you’re here observing them. It makes all the difference having the principal

engaged and the classroom teacher participating like this.”

“We love this program! I come to watch when I can.”

“That’s wonderful! Why isn’t that student participating?” I pointed to Arianna who had come into the room adjacent to the dance room and was sitting at a table in the dark.

“That’s Arianna. She has a mind of her own.”

“May I ask what the story is there?”

“Mom lets her get away with too much—she says whatever she wants. You can’t just say, ‘I don’t like what you’re wearing!’ to someone.

“Wouldn’t we all like to be able to do that….”

“I’ve had her since K-4. I’m worried about her going on to middle school. She starts fights. There will be fights. She has a new baby sister and it’s making it worse for her.”

“Mind if I go talk to her?” Ms. Morris shakes her head no, and I walk back and take a seat beside Arianna.

“You like to draw…….?” Clearly she does because she was. “I hear you have a new baby in the family………that can’t be easy. Are you getting enough sleep…….? What’s your favorite subject………?”


“Wow, that’s great. I was always a slow reader until I started to dance. Did you know that dancing makes you smarter? It’s true; when you engage in cross-lateral movement like this,” I slap my left hand to my right shoulder, then right hand to left and do it back and forth. She stared at me. Then I repeat it using my knees. “It makes your brain fire so it works better.” She continues to stare at me.

I learned this in college. Research proves that cross lateral movement improves reading scores. “Try it,” I said to Arianna then and waited. “It will help you pick up the dance steps faster than anyone. I won’t tell–they’ll just see how quick you are! It will be our secret. Should we go dance now? Come on, let’s give it a try. You’ll miss out otherwise. You can read anytime. Now is the only time you have to dance.”

I was shocked when she stood up and walked over with me to the dancing students.

“Come on Arianna!” someone shouted out. She entered the group and found a partner.

She danced.

Sometimes all we need is just a little encouragement. Way to go Arianna!

Brown Street Academy MHBT Class

Brown Street Academy MHBT Class, Principal Ms. Morris back row left, Classroom teacher Ms. Smith back row 4th from right, Danceworks faculty: Sarah DiMaggio back row center, Gina Laurenzi on right)

(To protect the privacy of the student, her name was changed for the story.)


About Our Blog

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.