JEFFERSON CITY — A lawmaker has waltzed into the House with new legislation giving students the option to get class credit for ballroom dancing.
Rep. Tim Flook, R-Liberty, has written a bill allowing students in public schools to take a ballroom dance class instead of a physical education or fine arts class.
"Maybe you're not good at volleyball, or running, or playing soccer, but you could take a ballroom dance course for P.E. class credit," Flook said.
Citing popular dance shows such as "So You Think You Can Dance," Flook said he believes if the option is given, schools would likely offer the class for student demand.
Flook said dancing is more than moving to rhythm or stepping with the right foot.
"This to me is a lot more than a gym activity," he said. "Some of us believe that it really is a good way to develop the culture of respect."
As a boy, Flook said he remembers learning traditional Mexican dances and others such as the cumbia from Colombia, merengue from the Dominican Republic and salsa from the Caribbean. Since their origins, many other countries have adapted variations of these dances. *
He said he also remembers the stress he had searching for a dance partner.
"Every event in my family involved live music and dancing," Flook said. "I had to learn how to pluck up the courage to learn a dance step and dance with a young lady."
Too many negative outlets exist to promote a "turmoil between the sexes," he said, adding that ballroom dancing will provide a positive and productive outlet for both sexes to interact.
While Flook attended school at William Jewell College, he met political science professor Will Adams, an avid ballroom dancer and instructor, and enrolled in his ballroom dance class. Adams has taught ballroom dance since 1974 and is the president of Culture Through Ballroom Dance, a nonprofit organization offering dance instruction to dancers of all ages.
Adams said he approached Flook after noticing ballroom dancing wasn't mentioned in talks about improving Missouri's childhood obesity rate. In 2006, Adams and his friend Paula Marie Daub started teaching dance classes during and after school in Kansas City area school districts. The program is a pilot project of what students could take if Flook's bill passes.
Adams said the emphasis on ballroom dance goes beyond physical health. The course teaches students cultural information about each dance. Adams said the most important lessons students learn is courtesy, self-esteem and how to work with the opposite gender.
"The least important thing we teach them is the dance," Adams said.
Flook said he got some of his ideas from Jeremiah J. Morgan, a stake president with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Missouri.
Morgan said the Mormon culture values the benefits dancing can bring to young men and women. He said the Mormon church regularly holds dances to help socialize students, which is especially important during the awkward teenage years.
"The young men and young women can learn to interact," Morgan said. "They get to spend time together and get used to each other."