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MS 210 students dance their way to education

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There is a lucky group of 30 students who get to dance to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Johnny Be Good" and "Stayin' Alive" during the day, then perform their routines and ballets at Ozone Park senior centers throughout the year as part of their overall school curriculum.

The dance class, offered at MS 210 at 93-11 101st Ave. in Ozone Park, is led by Carla Ferrar, the dance and drama teacher who is a former professional performer.

Ferrar said the school is the only one of its kind in Queens that offers sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students the class. The dance curriculum is just one option in the school's BRAVO program, which offers year-long classes focusing on artistic disciplines.

"They're so proud of themselves," said Ferrar, a graduate of MS 210 who has been a full-time teacher at the school for seven years. "Here, they're able to perform and express themselves; they get so excited."

Some one-third of the 2,600 students at the school choose to participate in the program that offers classes in chorus, the fine arts, band, orchestra and the theater arts of dance and drama.

Former Principal Matthew Bromme, who left to become District 27 superintendent, helped create the program that offers students 40 minutes in arts instruction five days a week. The dance option in the program began three years ago, Principal Stephen Callari said, and the drama option started two years ago.

"We created this program here," said Callari of BRAVO, which is unique to the school and thus not subject to districtwide budgetary constraints. "We wanted kids to be influenced by all the arts."

Ferrar, who said she has been performing since she was 5, runs auditions each year for students who want to return to the program the next year. She said BRAVO teaches students in a different manner than reading a book or studying for a test.

"I have them doing things that sometimes it takes dancers years to acquire," she said. "It's more of a learning process because it's less subjective."

Callari said the dance students in the BRAVO program started performing this year at local senior centers and nursing homes. He said this not only helps the students practice what they learned in class but also to reach out to the community and connect with the local elderly population.

Ferrar said she has 24 girls in her class and six boys. She said the students maintain a certain average in their core class studies, such as English and math, and that BRAVO classes do not take from the required instructional hours.

So far, Ferrar said, the students have entertained borough seniors at Far Rockaway Nursing Home in Far Rockaway and the Queens Center for Progress in Jamaica. Callari said there has been nothing but a positive reaction from local residents.

"It's changed a lot of opinions about what goes on in this school," he said. "It's great because kids get to know people in the community."

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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