JEFFERSON CITY - A lawmaker has waltzed into the House with new legislation giving students the option to get class credit for ballroom dancing.
Rep. Tim Flook, R-Liberty, has written a bill allowing students in public schools to take a ballroom dance class instead of a physical education or fine arts class.
"Maybe you're not good at volleyball, or running, or playing soccer," Flook said. "But you could take a ballroom dance course for P.E. class credit."
Citing popular dance shows such as So You Think You Can Dance, Flook said he believes if the choice were offered, schools would likely offer the option for student demand.
As a boy, he said he remembers learning traditional Mexican dances like the cumbia, maranga and salsa. He said he also remembers the stress he had searching for a dance partner.
"Every event in my family involved live music and dancing," Flook said. "I had to learn how to pluck up the courage to learn a dance step and dance with a young lady."
Flook said dancing is more than moving to rhythm or stepping with the right foot.
"This to me is a lot more than a gym activity," he said. "Some of us believe that it really is a good way to develop the culture of respect."
Too many negative outlets exist to promote a "turmoil between the sexes," Flook said, adding that ballroom dancing will provide a positive and productive outlet for both sexes to interact.
When Flook attended school at William Jewel College, he met political science professor -- Dr. Will Adams, an avid ballroom dancer and instructor -- and enrolled in his ballroom dance class. Adams has taught ballroom dance since 1974, and is the president of Culture Through Ballroom Dance, a non-profit organization offering dance instruction to dancers of all ages.
Adams said he approached Flook after noticing ballroom dancing wasn't mentioned in talks about improving Missouri's childhood obesity rate. In 2006, Adams and friend Paula Marie Daub started teaching dance classes during and after school in Kansas City school districts. The program is a pilot project of what students could take if Flook's bill passes.
Adams said the emphasis on ballroom dance goes beyond physical health.
"The least important thing we teach them is the dance," Adams said.
The course teaches students cultural information about each dance. Adams said the most important lessons students learn is courtesy, self-esteem, and how to work with the opposite gender.
Flook said he got some of his ideas from Jeremiah J. Morgan, a stake president with the Mormon Church in Missouri.
Morgan said the Mormon culture values the benefits dancing can bring to young men and women.
"The young men and young women can learn to interact," Morgan said. "They get to spend time together and get used to each other."
Morgan said dancing helps in socializing students, especially during awkward teenage years.
The Mormon Church does not provide many private institutions for students K-12, Morgan said. At the private Brigham Young University, however, students can join the world-renowned Ballroom Dance Company.
To Morgan, dancing provides more than physical education or a cultural experience.
"To watch accomplished dancers is to watch people being graceful," Morgan said. "Going to school is more than memorizing facts. It's about learning how to act refined."
Flook's bill has yet to be scheduled for committee hearing.