Monday mornings often have a negative connotation, but not for one group of seniors at Joel Barlow High School. Their Mondays have been getting off to a snappy start thanks to Ryan Swift, a physical education teacher at the school who is preparing 23 students to learn a range of ballroom dance moves.

Why will they need this skill set? “You might need to teach some losers the mambo later down the line in life,” he says with a smile.

The students are currently in the ballroom dancing unit of their PE class, and Swift has made the hour-long session one that no student wants to miss. As the students line up to begin their lessons in the gym, some are still waking up.

With his back to the class he begins shouting out instructions, “Left two, three, four! Right two, three, four! Forward two, three, four!” It’s not as easy as it looks. As students learn each additional combination of steps, their moods lift and the gym becomes filled with energy.

Seniors at Joel Barlow High School continue the tradition of learning ballroom dancing in their physical education class.

“It’s a rite of passage,” Swift says. “As freshmen these kids look up to their older siblings or older friends who are in the ballroom dancing unit–they can’t wait to take part in it.” The unit has been an institution for many years now at Joel Barlow and the students clearly enjoy it.

Between the music playing and the feet moving, students learn something new while having a lot of fun at the same time. Swift is happy that his students seem to “embrace the unit.” Even if they were resistant at first, they eventually get into it he says.

During the first session when it was time to partner up, each one of the students found a classmate and Swift turned the music up as loud as he could. Swift sometimes dances along with the students as he shouts out the choreography.

As the class wound down, the students were increasingly getting the hang of it. They swayed, turned and stepped, and their confidence increased throughout the lesson.

“Jazz hands are extra credit in this class,” Swift added.

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