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PS 152 stars in dance contest

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Students from Woodside’s PS 152 showed poise and fancy footwork as they outstepped two other Queens schools and six others from the five boroughs in a citywide ballroom dancing competition. The school, which entered the contest this year for the first time, will go on to the grand final dance in June.

Dancing Classrooms held its finals competition last Thursday, at which nine teams from schools across the five boroughs strutted their stuff as they danced the merengue, foxtrot, tango, swing and rumba.

Woodside’s PS 152 tied for the gold medal with the Bronx’s PS 102 and PS 51. These three schools will now compete in the grand final event in June, said Pierre Dulaine, founder of Dancing Classrooms.

Vincent Vitolo, principal of PS 152, said his school’s team had been practicing for weeks. He was thrilled the school moved on to the grand finals.

“It’s given the children self-confidence, poise and life skills,” he said of the program.

Douglaston’s PS 98, which won the city dance contest in 2006, finished with a bronze medal, alongside Manhattan’s PS 83 and PS 189. PS 26, which took second place in the city in 2007, earned a silver medal along with Brooklyn’s PS 116 and PS 94.

Students from PS 152 said they were convinced they would take the city trophy in June and that Dancing Classrooms had taught them valuable lessons.

“I’d never danced before, so I liked having new experiences,” said Anamaria Alvarez, 10, of Woodside.

Jhonnier Galindez, 12, of Woodside, said he initially did not want to take part in the program.

“I really liked it,” he said. “I learned types of dances from different countries. I used to be shy, but I came out of my shell.”

Chris Gasti, instructor for PS 152, said the students were reliably shy at first, but eventually became accustomed to dancing with their partners.

“They picked it up very quickly,” he said. “They were outstanding.”

Fourth- and fifth-graders from the northeast Queens schools said they enjoyed learning the moves in their 19-class program, despite not moving forward to this year’s final dance.

“I liked the seriousness and the sharp moves of the tango,” said Douglaston’s Max Von Schmeling, 10. “I also liked the swing because it is bouncy and energetic.”

Dulaine founded Dancing Classrooms in 1994 as a program to introduce children to ballroom dancing as well as to teach them etiquette. The program, which now has as many as 30,000 participants, is available for students at 230 schools in the five boroughs.

The dance program has been featured in two films, including the 2005 documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom” and the 2006 film “Take the Lead,” which stars Antonio Banderas as Dulaine.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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