The waltz and the tango are being used to teach fifth-grade students relationship skills through a social-emotional learning program.
Social-emotional learning also helps students learn self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and responsible decision-making.
Dancing Classrooms is a nonprofit organization that teaches children self-esteem, social awareness and confidence through dancing. Students learn several ballroom styles through a 10-week program consisting of 20 lessons. These styles include merengue, foxtrot, swing, rumba, tango and the waltz.
Teaching assistants use key and cue words created by founder Pierre Dulaine to help their students remember the steps. They also demonstrate the moves when teaching a new step or reviewing.
Fifth-grader Andrea Olivo said she was nervous but excited about going through the program.
“When they first come in, they don’t want to talk or look at each other,” teaching assistant Donna Whiteley said.
After a few weeks they blossom and become more comfortable with the dance steps and their dance partners, Whiteley said.
The students are almost halfway through the program and have seen progress in themselves.
“I never knew I could dance,” fifth-grader Issac Chabes said. “I thought it would be impossible.”
The program has also allowed him to make more friends and get to know people, Chabes said.
The program takes an inside-out learning strategy versus outside-in. They focus on instilling pride, respect and confidence in students and use ballroom dancing to bring those traits out rather than to force them in.
“We want them to feel good about what they’re doing and about themselves,” Whiteley said. “That comes from inside rather than constantly being told things.”
On the 20th lesson, the students will perform for their parents.
Olivo said she’s excited to dance in front of people after only dancing in her room.
About Dancing Classrooms 
Originally launched as a nonprofit program by the American Ballroom Theater Company in New York City, Dancing Classrooms is in 29 regions throughout the U.S. and Canada. The North Texas region was established in 2006 and has served thousands in the metroplex.
Dancing Classrooms is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization funded by schools, supporter donations and fundraising.

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