Students dance away community service

November 24, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Andy Miller, 13, waved his flashlight and directed the driver to a parking spot. A white-haired lady exited her car and took the young man's arm.

Andy formally escorted Dorothy Houff, 73, into the North Carroll Middle School Senior Prom.

Tara Beimschla, an eighth-grader, asked Ms. Houff to join the line for the Electric Slide.

"Let's try it; I'll learn with you," said Tara as the two joined a lively row of seniors and students dipping across the floor.

Later, Tara danced a gentle jitterbug with her new partner.

The dance with a different twist, where generations separated the partners, was a community service project for eighth-grade students at the Hampstead school.

Despite divergent styles, everyone swayed gracefully.

"I gave the kids several ideas for service," said Kate Rudy, home economics teacher. "They latched onto this one like a dog on a bone."

For a dollar ticket and a canned good for the Neighbors in Need project, participants danced the night away -- although often in different steps.

Ms. Houff, site manager of the North Carroll Senior Center, invited center members to the prom.

"What a great idea for a lot of fun," she said. "It's nice for seniors to mix with younger people. It's good for both sides."

The students also extended invitations to grandparents and elderly neighbors. The younger dancers planned every detail -- baked cookies for refreshments, rehearsed sing-alongs and set up bingo games.

They combed through family record collections to find oldies but goodies. Crystal Groves, student DJ, alternated Elvis Presley and Glenn Miller discs and took requests from the floor.

"This one is for you, Joe," Crystal said to a 70-year-old man seated in the back of the gym.

Joe Zorzi said he enjoyed his wallflower status and vowed not to dance a step -- even to familiar soft tunes.

"Enough of that stuff," shouted Martha Stenger, 77. "I like rock 'n' roll. I can do most of those new dances."

After an energetic twist with the kids, Ms. Stenger requested a slow song. She said she hoped to lure her 80-year-old beau from the sidelines.

"I have been teaching him to slow dance," she said. "He is doing good, but he's shy."

The couple moved tentatively to "Moonlight Becomes You."

"She says I'm doing all right, but I don't know," Ken Bollinger said.

Burt Shipley, 77, and Louise Snyder, 76, waltzed with the confidence of a pair who had been dancing together all of their lives.

"We never took up dancing until we reached 60," he said. "Then, we joined three clubs together."

The couple recalled their own Westminster Senior Prom in 1933 and their recent 60th class reunion. They dated in high school but later lost track of each other. Several years ago, they met again and have been dancing ever since.

A teen-ager tapped Mr. Shipley on the shoulder and cut into the couple's waltz.

"None of our guys are available; they are all working on dinner," Becca Weas said of her male classmates.

Although she said she preferred "fast dancing," Becca glided around the floor, easily following her partner's lead.

Ms. Snyder said, "She is doing the steps well, and she did a good turn."

After about an hour of dancing, the students escorted their guests to dinner in the art room. Following dessert, the children initiated a spirited sing-along.

"We have to sing a cappella because we couldn't get the piano up the steps," said Lois Giles, a parent chaperon.

Voices blended into "O, You Beautiful Doll" and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." As the mixed chorus began "Moonlight Bay," a student shouted to the principal.

"This one is just for you, Mr. DeLong!"

"They think I am a senior citizen, too," said the smiling principal.

Richard DeLong called the evening "an excellent community service project," which he hopes to repeat every year.

"High schools have tried this, but I think we are the first middle school," he said.

Mr. Zorzi, the reluctant dancer, became an eager songster.

"I wouldn't do a solo but I like singing with everybody else," he said.

"O Susanna" brought down the rafters before the crowd returned to the gym for one last waltz and a final twist and shout.

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