LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Students from all over the Lake Area were dancing up a storm at the Lake Charles Civic Center in the 4th Annual Colors of the Rainbow Team Match Ballroom Dance Competition.
This year 192 5th grade students from 16 schools competing from Calcasieu and Jeff Davis Parishes competed to take home the trophies for best performances in the Swing, Fox Trot, Rumba, Tango and Merengue.
As they glided across the dance floor they had a captive audience. Each boy and girl team was checking out the competition and said nerves began to set in.
"This is my first time to do this, but it was fun," said Jamarlie Lafleur, John F. Kennedy Elementary.
"It was fun but I was nervous because there a lot of good dancers here," said Lauren Ellis, John F. Kennedy Elementary.
"I was nervous because so many people were watching us," said Khy Winbush, J.D. Clifton Elementary.
"We had a lot of eyes on us, but we just got out there and did it," said Mario Biltz, J.D. Clifton Elementary.
Whistle Stop-Dancing Classrooms Executive Director Nancy Vallee said this is more than a dance competition it's a way to break social barriers between the students.
"It's a great way to get the boys and girls to interact. As they head to the sixth grade it prepares them to deal with each other and show respect. A lot of them will tell you they were nervous at first but are glad they did it because it gave them the confidence to try something new," said Vallee.
EDS 5th grader Scotti Moffett said, "We didn't know any of the dances at first, but it was a lot of fun to learn them. I have to say my favorite is the Swing. I really enjoyed it."
Dolby Elementary student Leporsha Smith said she enjoyed the Merengue.
"I love the Merengue because it was the first dance that we learned and I like the tempo of the Merengue," said Smith.
During the 10-week program the students practiced twice a week with instructors. While the audience couldn't take their eyes off the dancers - neither could the judges.
"We are scoring their every move. Staying on time with the music is extremely important. And I'm judging them on partnership. Are they together, are the moving well together. Of course posture is extremely important and then they have to have that little extra something that catches the judge's eye," said Neila Phillips, dance competition judge.
CITGO was a major sponsor donating $15,000 to the program this year.
"Just to see the joy on their faces and the self-respect they have for each other and how their self-esteem... they are standing proud and we are proud to be a part of that," said Dana Keel, CITGO Lake Charles Government & Public Affairs Manager.
While they may have all the right moves, it's the lessons learned on the dance floor that will stick with these students forever.
"It doesn't matter if you are good or not. It's just you have to have fun and be confident in yourself to win," said Jenna Richardson, Jennings Elementary School.
Vallee said their goal next year is to have 26 schools participating in the program.