Monday, August 10, 2020
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Home Towns Larchmont Simply Ballroom: Larchmont's 93 Year Tradition

Simply Ballroom: Larchmont’s 93 Year Tradition

“Ballroom” at St. John’s Church recently

Is it even relevant anymore? Ananchronistic?

About 200 Fifth Graders (in different sections), the girls in white gloves, the boys in jackets and ties, sitting up straight, waltzing, forming a receiving line, even, (gasp!) making eye contact?

Consider that after 93 years, Ballroom, or, more accurately, The Helen Adams School of Dancing, is always full when held in Larchmont from October to February for 10-year-olds.

“We should always know to be considerate of other people throughout our lives, otherwise I wouldn’t bother teaching this,” says Pat Bainton, who has owned the School since 1977 and began as Helen Adams’ assistant at the age of 13 (though she won’t say what year.)

“You have to be nice to other people here, whether you know them or not. It’s a feeling I want them to have about life in general.”

The story of The Helen Adams School of Dancing follows the story of the growth of the Village of Larchmont. Helen, (or “Honey”) Adams, the great-great-great-grandaughter of President John Adams, started the school in 1919.  She was seen dancing The Dying Swan in New York by Larchmont developer Bill Merritt (who built many homes in Larchmont) and he brought her to town to teach his daughter. The first school, with 5 pupils, was held that summer on a spacious lawn at the corner of Weaver St. and Palmer Avenue.

By the 1940’s, the School had moved to the hall in St. John’s Episcopal Church. Honey died in a car accident in Larchmont in 1977.

Today, children at elementary schools in Larchmont (Central, Chatsworth Ave., Murray Ave., and Sts. John and Paul) receive hand written invitations at the start of the 5th Grade school year. Attendance for the ten weeks is $375 per child.

Pat Bainton leads the charge

Today’s children learn the basic Waltz, the Cha-Cha and manners. It’s all not without its controversy, of course, or its supporters. In 1998, the New York Times featured the school with the headline “Grace Displaces Grunge.”

Still, that’s a lot of ten-year-olds over the years.

“I do fall in love with them. Ten year olds are so special because they’re on the brink.”

 

 

23 COMMENTS

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John
John
2 years ago

I grew up in Larchmont and went to Honey Adams as a 15-year-old, an appropriate age, in 1965. It was nice to meet girls, learn to dance, hack around with my friends (shooting ice cubes across the floor at the end of the evening), and get the chance to go out a night dressed in a suit and, yes, white gloves. It was cool to be square. Very, very preppy. Since then, I have read all of F Scott Fitzgerald’s novels as a result.

SallyJo
SallyJo
4 years ago

This brings back such memories! I went to Honey Adams ballroom dancing class in 1966. I enjoyed it very much and it hasn’t changed much since then either. It was a great way to learn how to interact with boys in white gloves. But I can’t say I used my ballroom dancing skills in life though. Honey Adams taught ballet as well. She was a large woman with a large cane that she would use to keep tempo with the music. I was rather intimidated by her if I remember correctly.

Guest
Guest
5 years ago

My children never received invitations as Chatsworth students. I knew about the program from an advertisement/flier in the library. I called and signed up. Not sure why everything has to be about putting people down or feeling put down by others.

guest
guest
5 years ago
Reply to  Guest

amen

Donna Mitchell
Donna Mitchell
2 years ago
Reply to  guest

I attended Honey Adams School of Dance from 1954-1964. Honey was always glamorously attired in satin dresses with lace collars and moved with grace and dexterity. Besides learning ballet and tap, I was enrolled in the ballroom dance classes while in 7th and 8th grades. Knowing the secret passages in St. John’s allowed me and a small posse to evade the greeting line preceding the class.

Word of warning…don’t wear a taffeta dress when you are nervous or keep your arms down to hide the perspiration stains.

Emily (OhBoyMom)
Emily (OhBoyMom)
5 years ago

I had no idea MAS was not sent invitations and I agree, that is absolutely wrong. As a Chatsworth parent of a 5th grader, personally I am THANKFUL my child has opted out of participating in ballroom this year. While I commend the teaching of manners (how to ask someone to dance, etc), I am against everything else this program represents. First off, these kids are 10 and while it’s nice to learn to dance, the boy-girl drama that happens as a result of this program is quite frankly a nightmare. Not to mention the drama among the parents of organizing the carpools. The whole “after-party” scene at Cosi or Starbucks is ridiculous and when my middle child did this program, I dreaded those Friday nights, watching pre-pubescent boys and girls try to figure out how to socialize. This program forces kids who are TOO YOUNG to participate in an activity that is meant for older students. This has become one of those programs that kids want to do because “everyone else is doing it” and for the most part, the dancing is secondary to the other “activities” connected to this program. I’m glad my 5th grader is being a leader and not a follower and making a decision based on his interests and not what his peers are doing.

Amom
Amom
5 years ago

My children go to another private school in Larchmont and all I had to do was ask to join the classes and my son was enrolled. There’s little interest at our school, so I can see why personalized invites aren’t sent to all parents. Before calling in the race card, see how many students actually are interested in attending. If there’s not a big interest, this discussion seems to be about something very different than Ballroom Dance classes.

Sue
Sue
5 years ago

Thank you centralmom

centralmom
centralmom
5 years ago

I have thankfully have never had any of the blatantly shameful experinces that Sue speaks of…rather the opposite! Yet…i have heard the rumblings of this type of thing going on, most especially aimed at MAS over the years but central a bit as well. if there are rumblings over it then it IS a problem and whether real or perceived, it needs to be corrected. Its just wrong to think that its OK to exclude ANY of the elemtary schools. WRONG. All or none or boycott the dance school. Anything else is indefensible…the “good business practice” excuse included. I used to be so defensive of this community based on great personal experinces but can no longer ignore that some very ugly things go on here. Thank goodness it is only a very small minority causing such ugliness but even one or two is too many. Excluding MAS is “shame on us” pure and simple. Allowing it to continue over the years is even worse.

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