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Older-style dancing 'not just 'going back and forth'

October 11, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - One, two, three, four.

One, two, three, four.

Mary Crowell Smith's nearly four-decade tradition of teaching teens and preteens how to cut up the proverbial ballroom rug is under way again.

On Sunday, at the Women's Club building on South Potomac Street, more than 20 local students in grades six through nine turned out to learn dances such as the waltz, fox trot and disco swing.

Smith has been teaching the classes, which run for 90 minutes during each of eight sessions, since 1965.

"I really enjoy teaching the young kids. When you see how they respond, it's really great," Smith said. "They may not use it today, but somewhere down the line, they'll find it useful."

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Smith said the classes are good for children of that age range because it helps them learn social graces and helps others overcome shyness.

"The shy ones kind of open up a bit through this," Smith said. "And the boys need to learn how to ask a girl to dance."

Mary Ellen Warren, whose 11-year-old daughter, Danielle, attended Sunday's class, said the experience seems to improve social skills and confidence.

"I think most kids are really nervous about going to their first school dances," Warren said. "They probably won't remember most of the steps, but they'll remember the social interaction."

The boys draped in jackets and ties and girls in skirts initially fumbled their way through new steps as they were introduced. But within minutes of each newly learned move, the teens and preteens were dancing more and more smoothly and, in many cases, wore wide grins as they improved.

Northern Middle School students Caroline Kreiger, 13, and David Burkey, 12, went through the classes last year, as well. Both said they have learned a lot from Smith.

"I thought the only dance was going back and forth," said David. "But there's so many I didn't even know about."

"It's just fun to come goof off a little," said Caroline, who is taking the classes for the third year.

Elizabeth Harrell, 12, of St. Mary's School in Hagerstown, said she joined this year because a friend told her it was fun.

"It seemed pretty interesting, so I figured I'd give it a try," Elizabeth said. "I've really enjoyed it."

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