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Akron fifth-graders waltz to top of competition

By John Published: January 30, 2011

John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer

The fifth-grade ballroom dance team from Akron's Crouse elementary advanced Saturday to the Grand Finals competition in May at the Ohio Theatre at PlayhouseSquare.

Crouse and Leggett elementary schools both sent teams of a dozen students each to the Cleveland competition, which was sponsored by Dancing Classrooms Northeast Ohio.

The nonprofit organization teaches social development to fifth- and eighth-graders through ballroom dance.

Crouse and the team from Elm Street Elementary School in Painesville were selected from five teams that competed in the semifinal match to advance to the Grand Finals on May 14.

At least 20 schools in Summit, Cuyahoga and Lake counties are expected to participate this school year.

Akron is the only district in Summit County to host the program so far.

This winter, eighth-graders at the Akron Opportunity Center and fifth-graders at Seiberling and McEbright elementary schools are in the program.

Fifth-graders at Schumacher and Rimer elementary schools will participate this spring.

Those schools may participate in the second semifinal competition, which will select the remaining four to six teams for the Grand Final.

All 60 students who competed Saturday received art scholarships worth about $125 to the ArtsPrep program at Cuyahoga Community College, which offers performing arts classes on Saturdays.

''They have their choice to select between ballet modern, music theater, jazz orchestra or the theater program,'' said Jo Jo Graham, executive director of Dancing Classrooms Northeast Ohio. ''It's for a semester and they go on Saturdays.''

Her organization is an offshoot of the 16-year-old New York City ballroom dance program developed by Pierre Dulaine. It was made famous in the 2005 film documentary Mad Hot Ballroom and the 2006 movie Take the Lead.

John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or Read the education blog at



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