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Lehigh Elementary takes top honors at dance competition

May 3, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

For much of the school year, fifth-graders from eight Lee County schools have learned ballroom dancing through the Dancing Classrooms program.

The idea hasn't been dancing for the sake of exercise, but rather to teach the children the importance of respect of the opposite sex and how to be proper ladies and gentlemen - life lessons they can use their whole lives.

On April 22 at the Miromar Design Center in Estero, seven of the eight schools gathered to put those lessons to the test in the annual Colors of the Rainbow Team Match, sponsored by Miromar Outlets and the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools.

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Lehigh Elementary School took the gold medal at the recent Colors of the Rainbow Team Match. The participating students included Melany Alpizar, Christopher Andris, Brucely Camille, Rayden Epperson, Giovanni Gonzalez, Ja’lin Nixon, Melanie Parra, Neveah Stanley, Chacour Thomas, Faith Thompson, Daniela Vazquez and Jada Whalen.

The participating schools included Lehigh Elementary, Hancock Creek, Tropic Isles, Dr. Carrie D. Robinson, Bonita Springs, James Stephens and Franklin Park.

Rodney Lopez, executive director of Dancing Classrooms, said it is an opportunity for schools to send their 12 best dancers to represent the best of the program.

"It's a point of pride for each school. The event starts really quiet, but as it gets going, it turns into a sporting event. Each team cheering for its school. It's gets really exciting," he said.

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The teams of six couples had two dances.

The first round consisted of one couple from each team dancing the merengue, tango, rumba, foxtrot and swing, while the second round had each dance to something other than their previous dance, which was picked out of a hat.

There was also a third dance where the captains/alternates dance twice, but that was not judged.

Fans watched from all three decks and were asked to be quiet at first so the children could hear the music and know their steps. Lopez then invited cheers, which the audience did in raucous fashion.

One of the fans was Marshall T. Bower, president and chief executive officer of the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools.

"I have a grin on my face like I always do this time of year. The kids demonstrate everything we want them to," he said. "They're great young ladies and gentlemen and treat each other with respect. They have a good time and they know how to dance."

In the end, it was Lehigh that came out on top for the fifth straight year. Littleton and Tropic Isles received silver medals, while Hancock Creek earned a bronze.

Marcia Hageman, grandmother of Katie Eaton of Tropic Isles, said the program had a great impact on Katie in many ways.

"I thought it was fantastic. I love it. They're so talented," she said. "She's much more polite and aware of being kind and nice to everyone."

Monica Broughton, Robinson Littleton Elementary's principal, said it was an emotional competition for the youth, but they represented the school well.

"We're very proud of them. They wanted to bring home the gold this year, but we're pleased with their performance. It was fantastic," she said.

"The boys learn to be gentlemen to the young girls, and vice versa," Broughton added. "They learn social skills and growing up."



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