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Articles of Interest » Youth Dance in Southern Oregon

Youth Dance in Southern Oregon

Author:
Jennifer Berry (This article is written by a board member of the local chapter and addresses the increased amount of youth dancing in the area.)

YOUTH BALLROOM DANCING IN THE ROGUE VALLEY

By Jennifer Berry

Medford-A new hobby is growing in the Rogue Valley amongst the youth. Ballroom Dancing seems to be the new fad not only gaining popularity as a hobby, but also as a competitive sport. "It is more than just a fun form of exercise for children and teens; it offers them an opportunity to increase social skills and confidence, gain respect for others, and develop teamwork skills," says Esther Freeman, local USA Dance Chapter President.

The Southern Oregon Chapter of USA Dance, organized in 1995, has worked hard over the past twenty years to increase dance for all ages but especially in the local youth community. Throughout the years, local dance enthusiasts have worked diligently as volunteers in Jackson County schools to make dancing available even though the school funding for art programs has been virtually eliminated. At North Medford High School the USA Dance K-12 Ballroom Dance Program, chaired by June Kranenburg of JK DanceSteps, is in its third year. According to Jeff Olson, PE teacher at North Medford High, it is one of the most popular elective courses available at the school. Several other schools have requested a similar program and the local chapter board is working to raise the funds necessary to expand the program to more schools.

On December 6th, USA Dance held the preliminary round of the third annual Rogue Valley Youth Ballroom Dance Championships, where forty competitors between the ages of 10 and 18 competed for cash prizes and dance scholarships. Eleven couples will move on to the exhibition round which will be held at the Evergreen Ballroom on February 28th at 7:00pm. Cost will be $6 open to the general public. The top four couples will receive up to $200 in cash prizes and have the opportunity to compete at the Pear Blossom Pageant on March 28th where they could win another $500.

Cori Grimm, Manager and Instructor at the Evergreen Ballroom, started the Rogue Valley Youth Ballroom Competition three years ago with June Kranenburg, long time instructor and volunteer for local dance. The competition grew out of a less formal dance competition at the Pear Blossom Pageant. Jeff Palpant of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney had sponsored the Pear Blossom competition with prize money for many years and he wanted to see competitors put more effort into their technical ballroom skills so he came to Kranenburg and Grimm to make that happen. That is how the competition came into being. Social youth dancing has increased in the Rogue Valley because of the competition. "We see more young couples at the Evergreen Ballroom Friday night parties who are comfortable with a wider range of dances," Grimm explains.

Sara Christensen, winner of the compulsory round with partner Adam Carlisle, participated in the competition all three years. She says that this year was the most challenging mostly because of an increase in the number of competitors. Like all the competitors, dancing has had a big impact on Sara's life. "I love it because it gives me a time when I can just relax and let my true self show a little bit more," says Christensen. Anton Drummond, who placed 2nd with partner Sage Bushman, commented on the increased level of difficulty compared to the prior years. He also feels that the competition had a great impact on his life, "I have made many friendships through dance and people recognize me in the Southern Oregon dance community. "

Scholarships are rewarded to competitors for private and group lessons in preparations for the Exhibition Round. Anyone interested in donating $25 or more to this cause will be listed in the program. Without donations and sponsorships, and USA Dance and community volunteers, this event would not be possible. Grimm puts in approximately 150 volunteer hours to coordinate this event. "Our mission is to build community through dance. We've been successful in that regard. So, it's all worth it," she said.