Students from Northside Catholic Assumption Academy competed in their first-ever ballroom dancing match on May 23. They won a bronze medal for their performance.

Story and photos by Sophia Mastroianni

Fifth-grade students from Northside Catholic Assumption Academy competed in their first-ever Colors of the Rainbow, a ballroom dancing match, on Thursday, May 23, at Taylor Allderdice High School. The team received a bronze medal for their performance.

The event was orchestrated through Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh, a program of Pittsburgh Mercy*. This arts-in-education program helps students create experiences, healthy relationships, maintain mindfulness, and “become young ladies and gentlemen,” according to the program provided during the show.

Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh is a program of Pittsburgh Mercy*. Photo by Sophia Mastroianni

Pittsburgh Mercy, a community health organization, introduced Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh in 2009 as part of their prevention services. Since its inception, the mission has been to build positive social awareness, confidence and self-esteem through the practice of social dance and curriculum-based teaching.

According to Administrative Patient Access Supervisor, Robin Hatala, Pittsburgh Mercy’s mission is to serve people who can’t serve themselves through outpatient services, drug and alcohol services, intellectual disability services, and Dancing Classrooms.

Not only do students learn how to dance the merengue, tango, foxtrot, rumba, and Swing, but they also learn how to interact appropriately in social settings. They are taught about different cultures through representative homework assignments for each dance, according to Kellen Hill, program administrator for prevention services at Pittsburgh Mercy.

“A big part of our program is that it’s inclusive,” Hill said. “Any student is welcome to be a part of it.”

Because the program is 10 years old, many Pittsburgh schools hear about the opportunity through Prevention Services but also through word of mouth from participating districts, said Hill.

Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh helps students create experiences, healthy relationships, maintain mindfulness, and “become young ladies and gentlemen.” Photo by Sophia Mastroianni

Mark Rogalsky, senior manager, of School and Community Services with Pittsburgh Mercy, oversees the Dancing Classrooms program. He said that because of the teachers who poured their hearts and souls into the program and the positive response of parents, Dancing Classrooms was easy to incorporate into the curriculum. According to Rogalsky, it’s not about the dance; it’s about everything else in life, mainly respect.

“It’s not about how well you can dance,” Rogalsky said, “it’s about getting along and learning how to be friends.”

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh is a not-for-profit project of the American Ballroom Theater Company in New York. While it is modeled after the national program and its curriculum, Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh is a program of Pittsburgh Mercy. Updated 6/5/2019.