Each spring, BYU hosts the largest amateur DanceSport event in the country, and one of the largest in the world. Among the usual college-aged and adult competitors, however, is a new generation of ballroom dancers: middle school and elementary students.
Centennial Middle School is one of many elementary and middle schools in the Provo area with an active dance program.
Kim McIntyre, the teacher in charge of the program at Centennial, said his love for dancing started young.
?When I was little, my dad and mom taught us to waltz and foxtrot,? he said. ?I loved to do it but I had no outlet until I came to BYU and got involved in their social dance program.?
Though he majored in English and math and began his teaching career in English, his interest in dance wasn?t forgotten. McIntyre helped to start the dance program at Dixon Middle School and taught a two-hour class for technique and team dancing over the summer. His students later went to competitions in Las Vegas.
In 2005, McIntyre began teaching at Centennial, where a portable studio annex was funded to make the program possible. The school currently offers six periods of dance, including three beginning classes, an intermediate class, an advanced class, and a competition class.
Each dancer is provided with the opportunity to learn dances that will improve their social abilities and coordination, as well as teach them proper etiquette.
In addition to class, students are also given the opportunity to learn before and after school as they receive help with dances and prepare for competitions.
Both McIntyre?s advanced and competition classes competed in DanceSport last weekend in Latin American dance and in the formation division.
He said there were 167 students competing in the Junior High category with cha cha and foxtrot on Thursday, as well as swing, waltz and quick step on Friday and samba and rumba on Saturday.
Addie Florschutz, a BYU student who also recently competed in DanceSport, said she was very impressed by the talent of such young students.
?There are some kids that are really, really talented,? she said. ?More talented than I was when I was their age. ? I think the dance program is a good thing. There are a lot of benefits to dance. It?s a physical exercise and it?s a good stress reliever.?
McIntyre said he has taught dance to students from kindergarten to sixth grade, with many going on to dance programs at the high school and college level. Some of his students have become professional dance teachers.
He said teaching dance is a way to help his students interact in a way that?s appropriate in ballroom. He said there are children in school who don?t like to sit or do math because they have so much energy. Though that energy could be a problem in a regular classroom, he said in his class it keeps them moving in class. He also said his class could help students build important social skills.
?When they do dance it helps them with relationships with people of the opposite sex,? he said. ?This is something they can do not just now in junior high but for the rest of their lives.?
McIntyre says the dance studio is a neutral learning ground.
?If you look at kids I have in classes, there are no cliques ? everyone dances with everyone,? McIntyre said. ?It?s a great equalizer. It?s hard not to like someone when you?re looking them in the eyes and dancing with them.?
Though not all of his students pursue ballroom further than the junior high or high school levels, McIntyre loves the opportunity to work with them.
?Above all, I love to teach dance because it?s fun all day long,? he said.