Learning swing dancing for lifelong fitness

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Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2014 12:00 am

Seventh grade students at Papillion Junior High School swung into fitness the morning of Jan. 31.

Students showed off their swing dancing skills in the school’s gym during a dance contest.

As part of their physical education classes last month, students learned the dances to show the students that there ways to get physically fit beyond traditional exercise.

“They taught us one new thing at a time,” said seventh-grader Chris Leute.

Swing dancing was a whole new experience for the 12-year-old.

“I’ve never danced, but it was fun to learn,” he said.

The contest split the seventh-grade class into three different hours. Each hour had four rounds. From the four rounds, dancers were selected for the finals, resulting in a first, second and third place winner from each hour.

Despite having danced competitively in the past, swing dancing was tricky at first for Kristen Rodenhausen, 12.

“It was a little difficult,” Kristen said. “Once you practice, it gets easier.”

The contest usually gets off to a less than smooth start, said physical education teacher Mary Meling.

“It starts off a little shaky, especially with the boys,” she said.

Kristen and Chris were both nervous to start.

“I was nervous, but then I became less nervous as we danced,” Kristen said.

Having spectators added to Chris nerves, he said.

This was the 16th year for the competition. Meling began the contest during her first year at the school. It grew from just her students participating, to the entire physical education department participating.

“It’s really grown throughout the years and evolved into what it is today,” Meling said.

It has evolved not only in the number of participating students, but also in the number of spectators. Now, parents are invited to watch the dances.

“We’ve learned how much students love doing it,” Meling said.

While the main goal of the contest is to teach students that there are other ways to get fit, teachers also use it as a way for them to learn to treat others respectfully, Meling said.

“It’s a way to be fit beyond traditional exercise,” she said. “We want to create a fun way and hope they get social and learn how to treat other people and be respectful.”

The contest is a way to introduce students to dance, too.

“We hope they get continued learning,” Meling said. “Dancing is a lifelong skill.”

Despite her initial nerves, Kristen and her dance partner, Josh Cryer, landed first place during their competition hour. And on top of a first place win, Kristen got the point of the contest.

“You’re doing fitness while having fun with it,” she said.

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