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Dance takes center-stage for competition and research at UT Arlington

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Monday, May 20, 2013

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Media Contact: Traci Peterson, Office:817-272-9208, Cell:817-521-5494, tpeterso@uta.edu

News Topics: education, health and fitness

The stage at UT Arlington’s Texas Hall will be filled Thursday, May 23, with fifth graders from Tarrant and Dallas counties competing in the fox trot, the meringue and other recently learned dances.

Dancers in a previous competition.

Dancers in a previous competition.

The Colors of the Rainbow competition is the culminating event for Dancing Classrooms, a 10-week dance and self-esteem enhancing course taught in 26 schools in the Dallas, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, Hurst-Euless-Bedford and Arlington school districts.

The Tarrant County Youth Collaboration and the UT Arlington College of Education and Health Professions implemented Dancing Classrooms, a national program, in North Texas in 2006. Teams from seven schools will compete Thursday

“The kids get so excited for the Colors of the Rainbow competition and the principals and parents do too. Watching the boys and girls treat each other with so much respect is unlike anything else you’ve ever seen,” said Larry Nelson, a UT Arlington associate professor of kinesiology who has completed two research projects that are recognized nationally as evidence of the program’s effects.

This fall, Nelson and Tarrant County Youth Collaboration plan to embark on a pilot project with eighth graders in collaboration with the Fort Worth Independent School District. It will attempt to increase the exercise benefits of Dancing Classrooms.

Dancing Classrooms is nearly 20 years old and was originally a project of the American Ballroom Theater Company in New York. It was featured in the popular documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom.”

One of Nelson’s studies, published in 2011, showed significant gains in the degree to which students felt socially supported and accepted after Dancing Classrooms was introduced. Another study examined cardiovascular exertion during the dancing lessons. The benefits of Dancing Classrooms were comparable to some other typical physical education classroom activities, such as ultimate Frisbee and volleyball.

For the upcoming pilot program, organizers hope to introduce Dancing Classrooms at two middle schools and make three curriculum changes. Those are: increasing the tempo of the music for each dance; increasing the tempo of warm ups and instruction; and replacing low cardiovascular response dances (e.g., the waltz) with more up-tempo dances. Students will wear accelerometers along with heart rate monitors and Nelson will evaluate the results.

“Nationally, statistics show that seventh and eighth graders are at risk for obesity and that physical activity declines as a child gets older, especially for girls,” said Tacia Torres, executive director of Tarrant County Youth Collaboration. “Because we’ve seen the benefits for fifth graders, we want to see how we can achieve those same benefits and even improve on them for the older students.”

Thursday’s Colors of the Rainbow competition is open and free to the public. Texas Hall is at 701 W. Nedderman Drive. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the competition begins at 6 p.m.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,800 students and 2,200 faculty members in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

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