Seniors, students enjoy tea dance


By Maleeka Marsden


Little Converses and Vans skidded across the wooden floors with waltzes and tangos as residents looked on with delight last Wednesday afternoon at the Casa de Manana retirement community.

The dancers were fifth graders from Dingeman Elementary in Scripps Ranch that came to perform after eight weeks of ballroom dance lessons taught by YMCA dance instructor Lihn Tran.

They performed four dances: the waltz, tango, swing, and electric slide. Almost all of the dancers agreed that the swing was their favorite, but also the hardest. Akil Kotamarti appraised the quicked-tempoed boogie as “half hard, half easy, half fun.”

The nervous giggles, the squirmy bodies, the proud smiles, the shy over-the-shoulder-to-avoid-eye-contact-with-partner stares, all brought a revivifying energy into the room that encouraged past dancers, such as Marillynn LaCoco, to pair up with a youngster.

“He does a beautiful waltz,” she said of her dance partner Kotamarti.

The retirement home’s staff members were also pleased, as both Director of Wellness and Recreation Tansy Sheehey, who made the event possible, and Director of Marketing and Sales Leigh Siso, said that it was a great intergenerational experience. Sheehey’s daughter just happens to be one of the students.

Not all fifth graders at Dingeman elementary were as lucky as this bunch, though. Teacher Rochelle Shwartz decided this year that ballroom dance classes would be a worthy use of the GAT (Gifted and Talented) funds she received from the school, and thus invited Tran, or “Miss Lihn” as she is affectionately known to the students, to teach lessons to the class every Wednesday afternoon for the last eight weeks.

“It is much more rewarding teaching children,” said Tran, who is accustomed to teaching adults. “With kids you’re opening a door for them; you’re giving them a history lesson as well as an etiquette lesson.”

She added that ballroom dance is a very important social skill for them to have, one that helps to get over shyness.

Yes, but what about cooties? In response to dancing with girls, Josh Hampshire said matter-of-factly, “I didn’t like it but I didn’t hate it either. After a while I got used to it.”

Alex Flournoy added that the lessons were “kinda hard and strange because you had to dance with a girl.”