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Salsa classes may offer wider lessons

Jeremy Lazarus | 2/16/2018, 3:51 p.m.
Is salsa coming to Richmond Public Schools? Attorney Brent A. Jackson is pushing to make it happen.

Is salsa coming to Richmond Public Schools?

Attorney Brent A. Jackson is pushing to make it happen.

Next week, Mr. Jackson plans to lead a delegation to the Richmond School Board to urge that a foundation he and other fans of Latin-style partner dancing created be allowed to offer dance classes for city high school students.

Mr. Jackson, co-founder, chair and president of the RVA Salsa Bachata Foundation, believes that students who take the classes would benefit from the values that the partner dances would provide, including self-discipline, cooperation and collaboration with a partner and courtesy.

“Counselors and mental heath providers use dancing to assist young people to learn to calm themselves and gain focus,” Mr. Jackson said he will tell the School Board at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20.

“Bringing dancing to the school system would provide a healthy and wholesome activity that could help them gain more control over their behavior,” he said. Even better, “it would give students more reason to smile.”

The foundation’s request, he said, would add to private dance programs that already are being provided.

Bachata is another style of Latin dance; salsa is better known.

Several years ago, the School Board allowed a nonprofit called Dancing Classrooms Greater Richmond to provide ballroom dance classes for younger students.

An offshoot of a program begun in New York, the Richmond program now offers such classes at 15 elementary schools, including 13 in Richmond and two in Chesterfield County, and at Franklin Military Academy in the city.

In the past, African dance has been offered at one or more schools.

Mr. Jackson said his group does not want to conflict with existing programs, which is why they hope the School Board will endorse the foundation’s effort to provide the programs at the high school level.

He is eager to get started because he hopes some of the students can take part in the national Salsa Congress the foundation is staging in Downtown on Sept. 7 and 8. It would be the first such event in Richmond, he said.

“We decided we could hold one in Richmond and bring people here,” he said.

Joining him in the work of the foundation and in organizing the Salsa Bachata Congress are Thaddeus O. Bogney, a dance instructor, choreographer, event promoter and DJ; Stephen Greene, a veteran salsa DJ; Anita Lin, an educator and avid salsa dancer; Boris Karabashev, professional dancer and instructor; and Valerie P. Watkins, an attorney and licensed realtor who loves to dance.