Fourth Annual Dancing With Our Local Schools – Spring Showcase 2014 Hosted by La Reina High School

On a beautiful spring day (finally, it’s been a hot spring season so far) this Sunday, May 18th was a wonderful day to dance! Dance 4 Wellness and the Fordney Foundation kicked off their Fourth Annual “Dancing With Our Local Schools” (DWOLS) Spring Showcase event. We are very grateful this year to be able to sponsor our popular event at La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks.  It was the perfect setting to feature our dancers, which included a special dance floor that was brought in!  Kudos for that…it was the perfect touch.

The event started off with a very informative prepared short video introducing us to Dance 4 Wellness, Maria Durant, Founder and CEO of Dance 4 Wellness, The Fordney Foundation’s, Marilyn Fordney, Director and Founder of Fordney Foundation.  Both Maria Durant and Mrs. Fordney are Co-Founders of DWOLS.  Through that video clip we learned the names of the instructors who came to the schools and taught the children to dance this year, they are Erica Arnold and Melanie Dayan of Dance 4 Wellness.  We found out which schools participated in the program and even more interesting were a few concepts about dance that made you think —  we’ll get to that later.  You might guess that dancing is fun and makes us happy.  It was only natural that playing in the background of this short film was Pharrell’s song, ‘Happy.’  And a happy day it was.  Did you know that dancing not only makes you happy but smarter too!   More on that later.

We heard a few opening words from the Dean of Enrollment at La Reina High School, Cristy Richey McNay.  Ms. Richey Mc Nay was excited to have us there and said her son was performing today too.  Ms. Richey is an alumnus of La Reina herself.  It is an all girls school and this fall, La Reina will be celebrating its 50 Year Jubilee!  Congratulations on that achievement La Reina High!

The hostess and MC of our event, the always charming, Maria Durant shared some exciting news with us.  Ms. Durant has just won the 2014 Small Business Award on behalf of Dance 4 Wellness for “Outstanding Business.”  This is such an exceptional award as only about 23 businesses have ever been honored with this recognition.  And to top it off, she was given this award by Mayor Garcetti.  We are very proud of Maria – that is quite an accomplishment!  Congratulations to you, Maria for a job well done.

We then heard from Mrs. Fordney who briefly filled us in on her childhood life adventures from an internment camp in California to Boys Town, Nebraska at age 6 to coming back to California at 12 years of age at the end of World War II.  She explained how she started with learning ballet and her love for dance and what it was like to even be able to take dance lessons.  Ms. Fordney could have become a professional dancer but went into the world of medical academia instead while not quite letting go of her dancing skills and dreams.  She holds seven distinguished national awards for her eminent work in medical administration and four of them were for the textbooks she has written.  She achieved all of these things without a college degree, amazing!  She has helped many people get jobs through her work that in turn has led to her helping many young people learn to dance.  Her generous grants are the reason we can come together at an event like this.  Ms. Fordney inspires us all.

Then it was time for the schools to perform some of the dances they learned.  First to dance was MAPLE Elementary’s 4th grade class.  Mr. Santos, their Principal was there to cheer them on as they did the Cha-Cha, Swing and Salsa.  We have interviewed Mr. Santos in a past blog.  If you wish to learn a little more about Maple Elementary School and Mr. Santos, we hope you will read our blog about him on this website. In addition, be sure to read many interesting blogs on various subjects involving dance and dancers.

Conejo Elementary’s 5th grade class was next to treat us to some Cha-Cha, Swing and Salsa.  Principal Dr. Dena Sellers was there too, I’m sure very proud of her students.  As a note, Conejo Elementary is the longest member of our DWOLS program!

EARTHS Magnet was up next to delight us. They were a 3rd grade class and the youngest group to perform.  They did Swing and Merengue, while Principal Boone was there to cheer her students on.  Good job!

MATES Charter School was next and Director Brenda Priske was on hand to cheer her 5th grade class on doing the Salsa and Cha-Cha.  They were terrific.

Last, but not least, was River Oaks Academy whose Director is Claudia Weintraub.  We were all very entertained by this group of dancers ages from 7 to 14 years old.  They did a great job of the Fox Trot and Salsa and even switched partners.  That was cool.

We also want to thank our wonderful instructors Erica Arnold and Melanie Dayan from Dance 4 Wellness.  They work so well with our DWOLS students and we know it’s because of you – the kids learn to dance and have a good time!  Maria Durant asked the audience if anyone was interested in being on the DWOLS Team as year round performers.  If you are interested or know a student that would want to be on our team, please contact Dance 4 Wellness/Bonnie Marcus:  805-991-6113 for more information.

We then heard some provocative thoughts from Ms. Harriet Cohen who is a mentor to Ms. Durant and a consultant to Dance 4 Wellness.  Ms. Cohen spoke about how dancing makes us happy.  She mentioned that if you look into a child’s eyes who has just danced, you will see that they are proud of themselves.  Dancing also can make you smarter because it requires you to learn steps, which then become part of your memory and develops your motor skills. It helps with academics as well as sports.  It is a fact that up to this point, the very gracious Mrs. Fordney and Fordney Foundation have been wholly supporting our very precious DWOLS program.  We need help in this area.  Do you know an individual or business that can help us with not only donations but also their time and ideas?  When you think of how your children feel when they dance – that is something good we want to preserve.   Do you know someone or something we can do to enhance our resources to continue our program well into the future?  If so, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We appreciate it very much.

Maria then introduced us to Sarah who has only been dancing for 2 years. We were treated to a wonderful dance performance of Cha-Cha by the lovely, 13-year-old Sarah and her partner, Jose Valencia of Dance 4 Wellness.  I was really taken with Sarah’s gorgeous, electrifying orange costume and that most recently, Sarah and her partner have already performed at the Emerald Ball Championships.  Now that’s really something!

Speaking of really something, you had to see Monet Pinkett and Loren Silverman dance.  These two 11 year olds have impeccable timing and moves on the dance floor.  They both have multiple interests and hobbies in other areas, but these two young people cannot live without dancing.  That is obvious.  They are going places and are destined to be star dancers in the future, for sure!

One of our dance instructors with DWOLS, Erica Arnold and Dance 4 Wellness instructor, Jose Valencia totally Wowed the audience.  They danced a thrilling Cha-Cha and showed us how good they truly are!   Great job, we are definitely convinced.

We all got a special unexpected treat next.  It seems Ms. Sellers from Conejo Elementary, Mr. Santos from MAPLE Elementary and Ms. Boone from EARTHS Magnet School with the help of David from Dance 4 Wellness (who they later dismissed, wink, wink ) all dressed in fun costumes wanted to surprise us all with their dance abilities.  They started out with a Waltz, then a Salsa and ended up having as many students and audience who wanted to dance, come up and have a “free for all” to Pharrell’s ‘Happy.’  It was fun and I’d say, it definitely made us smile.

After that it was Awards Presentation time.  Mrs. Fordney presented Monet and Loren with a special well deserved award for each of them from the Fordney Foundation for their wonderful performances this past year.

We were all given red tickets before the show started.  They were for a raffle give away for Free Dance Lessons with Dance 4 Wellness.  Several lucky people won – good going, we congratulate our winners.

After that it was time to award our DWOLS children with beautiful medals to congratulate them on successfully completing their 12-week program.  Each school was called up to receive their medals.  We want to say “thank you” to all our children for participating in this event.  It is actually all about you and for you we do it!

Maria gave out special “thank yous” to Laird Wilson for the floor set up, ABC Balloons for the spectacular arrangement, Cliff the technician, Nancy Carrington for the flowers, Erica and Melanie for their time and instructions with the schools, Harriet Cohen for her inspiration and all of our volunteers (Barbara Evans, Sara Marcus, Esme Takahashi) for your help.  All of you contributed in making this occasion special and we appreciate it very much.

I would also like to acknowledge Bonnie Marcus, Director of Operations of Dance 4 Wellness, who works very hard making sure everything runs smoothly – you always do a great job Bonnie!  And of course to our co-founders of DWOLS, Marilyn Fordney, with her husband Sandor Havasi, who does a great job taking pictures and videos, and to our other co founder Maria Durant, who hosts this event – everything revolves around all of you and we could not have a show without you!  Thank you all so much for what you do – a gift that makes so many people happy!  The theme was ‘happy,’ and I believe we all had a great day that proved to be fun and happy!

And a very special ‘thank you’ to the children, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts,, and uncles who came to our show – it was wonderful to have you there. The Fordney Foundation and Dance 4 Wellness love what we do and it means a lot to us to be able to do this kind of gratifying work for the children and our communities.

Thought Of The Week”

“Dancing solves all the worlds’ problems.”     –   Maria Durant


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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