When physical-education teacher Rebecca Flood was assigned to teach dance to junior high students, she knew how to square dance, but that was pretty much it when it came to cutting a rug.
“We’re talking zero,” the 30-year Wyoming Public Schools veteran said with a laugh about her skill level.
Now, three years later, laid-back cha-cha sliding, funny wobbling and some serious tango-ing are on the docket in Flood’s popular class. She leads Wyoming Junior High eighth- and ninth-graders in everything from the cupid shuffle to the Mexican hat dance, with many steps in between.
“They like to dance,” she said of her three hours of dance students, now numbering 90. She started with 22 students her first year. “I love to see the light bulb go on with the confidence boost.”
The students spent a recent class performing two-minute dances, self-choreographed in groups, using balls as props to the 1986 song “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. Between movements they mixed in layups on the gymnasium basketball hoop, acrobatics, and dribbled or tossed their balls to the lyrics: “It’s the eye of the tiger; it’s the thrill of the fight. Risin’ up to the challenge of our rivals.”
“I love seeing the dances when they do become something from nothing,” Flood said, pointing out positives in each dance like good creativity and great teamwork.
After lots of laughter and critiquing each others’ moves, students lined up to expertly “slide to the left, slide to the right. Take it back now, y’all” during the catchy cha-cha slide.
No Wallflowers Here
Freshman Daniel Pedraza said he signed up for the elective class because he hoped it would give him the courage to get out on the dance floor and stand up boldly for school presentations.
“I’m shy,” Daniel said. “I don’t like going in front of my class and performing. This will get my confidence up. Plus, you’re exercising and learning a fun activity at the same time, so it’s a win-win.”
For Flood, teaching dance required stepping out of her own comfort zone. To prepare for the course, she has taken classes at the Social Club of Grand Rapids to learn the rumba, salsa and other ballroom dances. She’s also taken classes at Wyoming Community Education. “Really, to teach is to learn,” she said.
For most of the students, the class is an introduction to dance. The schedule includes hip-hop, choreography, folk dance, country line dancing and ballroom. The Davenport University Dance Team and professional dancers visit as guest teachers.
Eighth-grade student Zachary Fry said he’d have the chance to dance at events and wants to be ready.
“I want to be a better dancer so I can go to a quinceanera (a Mexican birthday celebration) and dance. If I go out with my friends, I’m not sitting in the corner,” Zachary said.
Ninth-grader Celeste Fales said she wanted to develop her skills.
“I want to learn new dances and boost my confidence,” she said. “I can learn choreography.”