Holy Cross kids learn proper social behavior at etiquette club
Deerfield 12-year-old Nolan Horgan dances with Highland Park 11-year-old Alexa Grant during a Social Dance Class at Holy Cross School in Deerfield on Dec. 12. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 28, 2012 1:58PM
DEERFIELD — You don’t see a lot of young girls and boys learning formal dance and etiquette; girls wearing dresses and white gloves, boys wearing neatly-pressed shirt and neckties — except at Holy Cross School in Deerfield.
It’s a club, called Social Dance and Etiquette, and principal Janie DiVencenzo said, believe it or not, it’s a very popular club.
“It’s been going on for about 20 years with the same instructor,” DiVencenzo said. “We do it every other year for 6th and 7th graders; not all students participate, but a great number of them do.”
DiVencenzo said the club not only teaches the students the steps of classic ballroom dancing, but how to present themselves properly in public and social situations.
Vera Schmidt, the club’s teacher, said 6th and 7th grade is the “right age” to start teaching kids these skills.
“Some of them have parties and dances they go to where they may need some of these [skills], and the kids are very receptive to this,” Scmidt said. “I think when they get to high school, they’re not interested at all.”
Schmidt said the goal is not to overwhelm the students with tricky, complicated dance moves, but to instill the basics.
“We don’t overload them with a lot of things they will forget in one week,” Schmidt said. “It teaches the basics of dance positions; simple steps they’ll never forget.”
One of the students, 7th-grader Aidan Sullivan, said he’s already taught his parents a few dance moves.
“I think it’s fun; it’s a lot different than normal activities,” Sullivan said. “It’s a good change of pace and everyone looks great.”
Schmidt said the students are also learning how to properly ask for a dance and how to introduce their partner.
Of all the skills the students are learning, sitting is one of the favorites.
“We’re learning how to sit nicely and now to look nice in front of other people,” 7th-grader Grace Sluzynski said. “I think it’s fun to feel fancy.”
“We get to learn stuff you usually wouldn’t learn, [like] how to sit properly and act proper,” 7th-grader Sarah Wegh said. “We get to be prepared for situations where we’ll need to know this stuff.”
While the thought of wearing white cotton gloves may make a young girl uncomfortable, Schmidt said the gloves are actually a comfort item.
“This is one of the few schools where the girls still wear [white gloves],” Schmidt said. “With kids this age, their hands do perspire, and it just makes it comfortable holding on to another person’s hand.”
Schmidt said the students will learn the Foxtrot, Waltz, Cha-Cha, swing dancing as well as some contemporary line dancing.
“By the time they finish, they will feel very comfortable with it,” Schmidt said.