GOWANUS — The tap shoes donated by Capezio are still in their boxes, cartwheels aren't allowed in dance class, and hip-hop is out of the question at P.S. 372, because the school's dance floor is too dangerous, parents and teachers say.
The school's linoleum-over-concrete floor is the worst possible surface for growing young limbs, which take wear and tear with every leap, jig, and boogie, according to dance teacher Sandi Gonzalez.
"When you jump there's no softening of the landing," said Gonzalez, whose classes at P.S. 372, also called the Children's School, are popular with kids and parents alike. "I really tone down or restrict some of the movement choices in order to keep it safe...I really worry about them tripping and hitting their head."
Now the school is turning its problem into a solution — throwing a "floor-raising dance" party Nov. 15 to raise $20,000 to replace the dance floor with a safer, sprung-wood dance floor.
The dance, inspired by country barn raisings, is open to the public and tickets go for $15, which includes dinner. The dance will be held in the school gym — not on the inadequate dance floor — and school staff will take turns teaching social dances from around the world.
P.S. 372, which is on Carroll Street off Third Avenue, tried to finance a new floor through City Councilman Brad Lander's participatory budgeting program last year, but the project didn't get enough votes to win funding.
PTA co-president Denise Gottwald says parents aren't giving up on their goal of getting a new floor.
"It’s concerning to parents," Gottwald said. "It’s a fabulous [dance] program, we just really wish as parents we had the proper facilities to do it."
The dance program is a cornerstone of the school's "inclusion" philosophy, meaning that it welcomes special needs students and integrates them into every class. Choreographed movement works wonders for autistic kids, hearing-impaired students, and children with attention-deficit disorder, Gonzalez said.
For small kids, dance is a way of learning basic directions. For older students studying foreign countries, dance helps them understand other cultures, Gonzalez said.
"It's about our history and who we are as people," Gonzalez said. "The majority of my students will not become dancers, but I hope they'll grow up to be more comfortable in their bodies and appreciate and enjoy dance."
Tickets to P.S. 372's Nov. 15 "floor raising" dance can be purchased on the PTA website.