You might expect male high school athletes spinning and twirling their way through dancing lessons to hear some teasing from their classmates. But not at Glen Burnie High School.
"You see, we're the tough guys in the school, so nobody messes with us," joked Keith Plumer, 18, a lacrosse player.
He and the others concede, however, that their fathers and brothers tease them for taking the dance for athletes class, the brainchild of Dianne Rosso, the dance teacher at the high school.
Dancing lessons help athletes improve their agility, flexibility, coordination, stamina and footwork on the playing field, said Ms. Rosso, who started the class last fall with 12 boys and four girls.
"The footwork is particularly helpful for soccer and football players," she said.
Running back Herschel Walker studied ballet while he was playing with the Dallas Cowboys and once appeared with the Fort Worth Ballet Company.
Ms. Rosso's student athletes have been on stage, too. They danced to "Luck Be A Lady Tonight" from the musical "Guys and Dolls," and "Rock 'N' Roll Is Here To Stay" before a crowd of about 700 during the school's winter dance showcase in the auditorium.
"These guys were moved after being on stage in the lighting, costume and makeup and having a huge audience like that be receptive to them beyond belief. Now they want to perform somewhere else," Ms. Rosso said.
Meanwhile, others have become interested in her dance for athletes class, she said, and many stop by while class is going on to see what it's all about.
"This has become a phenomenon here. Kids come by here every day and look in the room. I've got a lot of guys saying, 'I'll be there next semester," said Ms. Rosso. "In my 23 years of teaching, I've never seen anything like this. It's like a fever."
On a recent day, Ms. Rosso, in black dance shoes and leotard and a long-sleeved green shirt, clicked on a tape of techno-house music and guided her class through several neck rolls and stretches.
The students, dressed mostly in red shorts, gray T-shirts and socks, copied her movements as they watched their reflections in the wall mirrors. They squatted, spun and twirled.
The boys were self-conscious the first two days of class but soon became comfortable and have stopped asking for frequent breaks as their endurance increases, said Ms. Rosso.
"I think they're in the habit of being on teams and sitting down and playing a quarter and sitting down," said Ms. Rosso, who devotes 40 minutes to warm-up stretches and 10 minutes to dance during the classes.
Steven Meyerer, 17, a football and lacrosse player, said he took the class because "my coaches told me about it last year and I talked to all my friends and they're like, "Yeah, we're going to take it.' "
He and other boys in the class, such as Jeff Blurton, 17, a soccer player and wrestler, said the class has increased their agility, flexibility and speed on the playing field.
The boys tease Jenny Weih, 17, a cheerleader.
She takes their teasing in stride and says, "It's fun having them in class. They make fun of me a lot, but I'm used to it, and I know they don't mean it."