Ballroom dancing: Fifth graders strut their stuff at Rolling Hills

Fifth grade dancers spun, stepped, and jogged their way around the Rolling Hills Country Club ballroom on Wednesday, Dec. 11, during the annual Walter Schalk School of Dance winter dance.

The evening started with boys introducing their dance partners to chaperones along the receiving line and proceeding, arm in arm, to their designated seats.

When the music was ready to start, Walter Schalk, longtime owner of the 57-year-old dance school, stood with microphone in hand, urging dancers to shake with a little extra passion. He called out dance styles and steps more eclectic than one could imagine, like the jitterbug, the waltz, and the Cotton-Eyed Joe.

More than a dozen boys sat on the sidelines waiting to dance, as more boys signed up for dance lessons this year than girls, a very rare event. Each time a song came to a break, those boys sitting out had to jump out of their seats and cut in with one of the dance pairs — a terrifying proposition for some.

While the boys did not offer much in the way of comment, one of the girls, Madison Bias, said she enjoyed the class because she “just loved dancing. I get to dress up in nice clothes and have fun!” she added. “My favorite is the over and under dance — maybe that’s the fox trot.”

Carol Rowe, a chaperone for the evening, said she had three daughters go through the program, and that she herself attended Mr. Schalk’s ballroom classes years ago.

“I’m an alumna. I danced years ago with Walter. It really spans generations,” she said. “He still does the traditional dances that are so great.”

While Ms. Rowe’s favorite dance during her time was the jitterbug, her daughter, Maggie Rowe, said her favorite is the waltz, or “the box dance,” as she put it.

Laraine McCormack, another chaperone at Wednesday’s dance, said it was refreshing to see sports coaches support the boys who wanted to do ballroom dancing.

“There’s a nice combination of boys and girls learning an old pastime,” Ms. McCormack said, “These are great classics that we all grow up with.

“This is a time where boys and girls are starting to take notice of each other,”  she added, “and this is a very welcoming place for them to do that.”