Dancing With Our Local Schools – Sixth Annual Spring Showcase 2016

DWOLS, Photo courtesy of Alex Havasi

The Fordney Foundation and Dance 4 Wellness presented their Spring Showcase on Memorial weekend. That is a good time, because we honor and remember all the men and women who preserve our freedom representing our country year after year. As fitting, it is a good time to remember our country values personal freedom. Let us also not forget the reason we can have these wonderful school events. It is because freedom to pursue our dreams exists and Marilyn Fordney knows a lot about that. It is because of her lifelong love of art, culture and dance, and the gift of giving back, we can all be part of something really special developed from one person’s passion!

DWOLS, Photo Alex Havasi

For those of you who could not attend our Dancing With Our Local Schools event (DWOLS) on May 27, Friday night, I shall recap the event’s fun filled evening. DWOLS is a non-profit dance program design for 4 – 8th grade students in Southern California School Districts, primarily in the Conjeo Valley. Maria Durant, our vivacious moderator, is also the Co-Founder and Executive Director of DWOLS and the owner of Dance 4 Wellness. She is the partner of Marilyn Fordney, Founder of Fordney Foundation. Together they designed this program to bring the art of ballroom dance in 6 years to over 5,000 students. There were over 600 students representing 6 schools this year. And that is why we are here; we celebrate the efforts of the students, teachers, principals and our wonderfully talented dance instructor, Erica Arnold. All of these efforts are being presented to you in the fabulous auditorium of La Reina High School. We are forever grateful to our hosts, La Reina High School. We couldn’t ask for a better place to perform!

Maria got the show started and explained that this program has been active since 2010. She told how this program has made a difference in the children’s lives. They develop communication skills, learn about culture/art, they get to have some “fun” exercise and much more.

For our opening number, we saw Loren Silverman and Monet Pinkett do a great tribute to the late, great, Prince. In case you do not know who Loren and Monet are, they are Fordney Foundation’s 2014 (first year) Latin winners at the Ohio Star Ball. They won the $4,000 scholarship. Since then, they have gone on to compete in other competitions successfully, and we will see them perform a few more times tonight.

DWOLS, Photo, Alex Havasi

Maria then introduced Marilyn Fordney and mentioned, without Marilyn Fordney and her initial grants, there would have never been a program. Ms. Fordney thanked Maria Durant and Erica Arnold for all the work throughout the semester teaching the dance classes and producing the showcase. She congratulated all the elementary school students and their principals for participating in the DWOLS program. She thanked both Ryon Garber and her husband, Alex Havasi, for the photographs of the entire event. She also thanked the contributors who help offset the expense of our showcase. She very much appreciates all the parents, relatives and friends of each student that come to support and cheer! She thanked Laird Wilson and his staff at La Reina High School who set up the room and make all of our accommodations here so comfortable – making sure everyone can enjoy the showcase. Ms. Fordney also appreciates the volunteers and thanks you. Also, a big thank you to Loren Silverman and Monet Pinkett, who always graciously accept our invitation to perform at our showcases for the past couple of years.

Ms. Fordney mentioned that there is a waiting list of other schools eagerly waiting to experience our DWOLS program. Of course, as much as we would want to do that, it does take funds to keep adding schools. Every $50 will support one child for a semester in our program. Even if you are unable to make a financial contribution, but would still like to help in some way, please contact Mrs. Fordney at: (818) 532-7341 or www.fordneyfoundation.org. The Fordney Foundation is also involved in another project called The Ladies of Ballroom, a unique CD Project with some of the proceeds going to Fordney Foundation. If you would like to learn more about it, you can go to www.fordneyfoundation.org and read various blogs we have posted or contact: m4mrecords@me.com by emailing Brent Thomas Mills, the man who originated The Ladies of Ballroom project.

DWOLS, Photo, Alex Havasi

Marilyn Fordney thanked the thousands of students who were not there but who have purchased the textbooks she authored for over 40 years. They made it possible for her and her husband to establish the foundation to share with others and to give the gift of dance. She especially thanked

DWOLS, Photo, Alex Havasi

Jeremy Chaffin and Telos Inc. for investing the funds so all of this can happen. She expressed that it takes a huge team of participants to be involved in this program and she and her husband are grateful and thank everyone involved.

Next, Maria told the audience that this is the first year we have incorporated Bollywood into our dance program. Our new dance instructor for Bollywood is Mr. Sharon James. He is the owner of and Artistic Director at Bollywood Dance School for Kids and Adults. The lucky 4th graders of Westlake Hills Elementary got to be our very first class to experience the Bollywood program that includes Hip Hop, Zumba, Jazz Music and Musical Theatre.

Our first school to perform was Glenwood Elementary – Principal, Vivian Vina. There were 2 groups of boys and girls performing Swing, Rumba and Salsa. They were great!

Monet Pinkett, Loren Silverman, Photo, Alex Havasi

Then Loren and Monet performed an elegant Waltz that was beautifully done.

Up next was Madrona Elementary – Principal, Holly Chambers. We are happy to say, this was their first year and they came out on fire! They learned how to do the “Cool Kid Handshake” and the “Toe Heel Move” and even though they said it was hard work, they really enjoyed it and really wanted to impress Erica. Mission accomplished, we were all impressed! There were 2 groups doing Swing and Nightclub 2-step.

Then it was back to our 2 super guest dancers, Loren and Monet. This time they did a divine Tango. The crowd loved it; they were super fantastic!

Throughout the evening Maria read Raffle ticket numbers out loud and the lucky winners got to come up after the show and receive their prizes. Also Maria came back to advise us that our 12-week program will now extend to one year and run until the end of April. Also new, 4th graders will be able to do Bollywood and 5th graders will get to do Hip Hop.

DWOLS, Photo, Alex Havasi

We then got to see Westlake Hills Elementary perform – Principal, Cheryl Moncourtois. This

DWOLS, Photo, Alex Havasi

was their second year with DWOLS. There were two groups doing the Nightclub 2-step, Cha-Cha and Tango. Good teamwork kids!

Then Loren and Monet did a very beautiful Viennese Waltz. As usual, they were completely in sync with each other and made everything look so easy.

Next it was Conejo Elementary’s turn to perform – Principal, Kari Taketa. The interesting thing about this school is that it has 2 schools on campus. Principal Taketa said our program bridged the gap between them. The students did a great job of performing the Merengue and the Hustle and we are happy to hear our program can bring students together.

DWOLS, Photo, Alex Havasi

Back to entertain some more were Loren and Monet. This time they were doing a Fox Trot and Quick Step. It’s easy to see how they won first prize at the Ohio Star Ball. Smooth!

We then saw Maple Elementary – Principal, Juan Santos came up. Mr. Santos is very committed to his students and said they actually had a V.I.P. group that “wanted to do more.” They did, when they did the Triple Swing – super fun, we all loved it!

Westlake Elementary – Principal, Megan Triplett was our last, but not least school to perform. This was their first year in our program and there

were 2 groups performing Waltz, Mambo and the original Hustle. Good job everyone!

Loren and Monet came back to perform their final performance of the evening. They did an outstanding Latin medley that knocked our socks off, WOW so entertaining!

Mike and Maya, Photo, Alex Havasi

We were then treated to a brother and sister dance team – Mike and Maya Urshansky. They have been dancing over a year and have developed great style and technique (I think it has a lot to do with Erica Arnold, their teacher). They were so good, we hardly noticed that Mike’s arm was in a sling due to a recent injury. Mike and his sister, Maya , never missed a beat doing the Cha-Cha.

Speaking of excellence in technique and style, the amazing Erica Arnold performed with her partner Willem DeVries, doing a very sophisticated, dramatic medley. Boy, were they great! Needless to say, there were roars of cheering from Erica’s devoted fans, obviously very impressed with what their instructor can do!

Erica and Willem DeVries, Photo by Alex Havasi

For our final performance of the evening, all 6 of our principals got together to do a feel good, surf medley to the Beach Boys music. This was the first time that all 6 principals got to perform at once. It was so much fun to see the principals having a ball and looking so good out there. There were big cheers from the students and audience alike. Everyone in that room had a blast!

Awards were then given out by the principals of each school. It was very exciting to receive a marvelous royal blue medal signifying great achievement by our students and another great year of Dancing With Our Local Schools completed!

We would like to give recognition to our newest sponsors: William Powell and Jewell Gerald Marangoni, whose contribution allowed us to grow our program this year. Thanks to your support, we plan to expand into additional school districts in Ventura County next year!

Principals Dance, Photo, Alex Havasi

I would like to say that donating to a non-profit organization has great benefits.  Giving to an organization like ours ensures our children locally are being helped and you are giving to your community.  You are using your money wisely to help your own children and you will be able to see the impact your funds are making.  You can also declare your contribution as an income tax deduction and will receive a receipt from our nonprofit 501 (c) 3.  Or if you prefer to donate shares of a publicly traded stock, you are allowed to take a 100% deduction for the share’s value without paying tax on any appreciation.

Again, we want to thank the many people involved who make this night a special event. We could not do it without you. You do so much to help us!

DWOLS Awards, Photo, Alex Havasi

Where we perform makes a huge difference for all involved. Laird Wilson did the set up and take down for our show, as well as helped make sure everything else was just right to make us all feel comfortable. We did feel very comfortable and we thank Laird! We are so proud of all of our students, for participating in our program. We thank their parents, friends and relatives who support them too! We are grateful to share what we love with you and we appreciate the support! To the dedicated staff consisting of Erica Arnold, our newest instructor, Sharon James and of course, Maria Durant, our dance program cannot exist without you. We thank you so much. You lend hours of work to a great finish! Please note that Maria has recently moved to a new dance studio. Maria’s new location is 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd. Be sure to stop by and visit. We also thank our Board of Directors, all of our schools and all of the Principals. We thank all the Principals for their kind words. We are all thrilled you share our vision! All of these excellent photos capturing “the moment,” were taken by our Assistant Director of Fordney Foundation, Alex Havasi and Ryon Garber. We thank Ryon and all of our other Volunteers, you guys do a great job and we appreciate you so much!! Last but not least, we thank Marilyn Fordney, for the gift of dance and the wonderful enriching experience that goes with it!

Thought Of The Week:

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. Then go out and do that. What the world needs is people who have come alive.     –   mindvalleyacademy.com


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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website https://slowmotiondancevideos.com/