We share the joys of social/ballroom dancing and every day etiquette/manners with children of all ages in the DC Metro Area. We have terrific programs available for private schools, public schools, summer camps, homeschooling associations, cotillions and birthday parties. Contact us TODAY to learn how your child can benefit!

Call Deborah Joy Block at 703-732-4846
website: www.schoolsteps.net or www.backtobasicsmanners.com
email: info@schoolsteps.net or info@backtobasicsmanners.com

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Upcoming Manners Workshop Schedule


"Best Buddies" Betsy Cameron 1996

Etiquette for the Internet Generation

Contact us to be put on the interest list for upcoming workshops!
Questions: call 703.732.4846
Registration Form: click here
Ages: 1st - 5th and 6th - 9th

Winter 2011 Workshops will include: Proper Introductions, Hand shakes, Eye Contact, Good conversation skills, Thank you Notes, Respect and Courtesy, Dance Floor Etiquette, Cell/Telephone Manners, setting a formal table, dining etiquette which includes a 4 course meal, good posture and presentation, social dancing and dance floor etiquette.

Receive a discount on the tuition when you refer others for the same workshop.

Please help spread the word! Print out the promotional flyer and post it on your local or online community bulletin board

Our Concept

Our company provides an exciting and popular social dance program called "School Steps." School Steps teaches children of all ages the basics of ballroom and social dancing and we can travel to YOU! We offer the programs on weekends, during the weekday or after school -- as a consistent program or a special series or as an intensive camp. We know our services are vital to the social aspects of childrens' development and introduce an appropriate way to develop them. We understand the undercurrent of frustrations the children, schools, parents and chaperones alike are facing in dealing with managing the propriety of today's social youth events. We help bridge the gap between our past and our future generations by providing a solution and a channel for personal expression.

Benefits for Children

You will be excited about this program because your students will gain interactive dance skills through ballroom and social dancing. Harnessing the power of this teaching method promotes physical, mental and emotional health for your students. As witnessed in the documentary film "Mad Hot Ballroom" and movies like "Take the Lead", social dance helps children cultivate coordination, self-esteem, respect, and socialization skills.

School Steps Curriculum

SCHOOL STEPS ™ provides a customized dance program for your students. You will be pleased with the progress and enjoyment each child experiences through qualified and enthusiastic instruction. SCHOOL STEPS is a fun and easy introduction to social dancing. No transportation or schedule hassles! We come to your school anytime!

School Steps Graduates will learn:

Back to Basics Curriculum
Today's youth live in a fast-paced digital world where interpersonal contact is often conducted via cell phones, text messaging, TV and computer screens. Despite the growing impersonal nature of our environment, BACK TO BASICS helps children rediscover the simple pleasures of human interactions such as courtesy, tolerance, consideration and the human touch.

Good manners and proper personal presentation is not a luxury but rather a necessity in today's increasingly competitive society. Proper etiquette is a mandatory social reality.



BACK TO BASICS Founder, Deborah Joy Block has been teaching social skills for 17 years. She is Virtus ™ certified and has basic CPR training. Her teaching experience ranges from instructing group lessons for corporations and organizations, clubs, community centers, camps and private and public schools. In 2002, Mrs. Block founded The Wedding Dance Specialists - the nation's first wedding dance company which specializes in teaching thousands of engaged couples and their families how to dance for special events like weddings. The company grew to be the largest and most recommended of its kind in the nation and is now considered the nation's foremost authority. Mrs. Blocks dance training includes working with several world champions, the star of the movie, The Tango Lesson movie and the head choregorapher from Dancing With the Stars. Some of her dance performance background includes Arlington’s Tango Festival sponsored by the Argentine Embassy, the Fine Arts program at the U.S. Department of State, several area Chamber of Commerce Galas, and large corporate galas. Deborah Block's classes, performances and company have been recognized by the press including; Washingtonian Magazine, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, The Mclean Times, Alexandria Gazette, Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen Network (national television wedding reality show), local radio stations HOT 99.5, MIX 107.3, WJFK - 106.7FM and WTNT - 570AM, the U.S.Deparment of State Magazine State of the Arts, Old Town Crier Magazine, James Madison University Montpelier Magazine, and wedding magazines such as The Knot, I Do, Premiere Bride and Washington Weddings. The Wedding Dance Specialists recieved over 200 5 star reviews on several third party review sites.

Deborah Block's company has 3 departments: The Wedding Dance Specialists (for engaged couples and their families), Dance Dynamix (themed dance entertainment for individual hobbyists, organizations and corporations) and Back to Basics/School Steps (Manners and Social Dance for Youth). All of the staff on her team have many years of dance teaching experience, dance training, performance experience and many have competed nationally and have taught subject matters in addition to dance. All of them have university degrees and most of them have proficiency in a second language.

Success Stories!

Private and Public Schools - Afterschool Programs

Merengue and Swing Group Lessons to 1st - 5th graders in Arlington, VA, February 2007 - June 2008

"Everything was great! The students were introduced to a new activity that got them to interact in a different way with each other.  I also liked how a variety of different cultures were emphasized and shown as being important and worthwhile. We had an excellent experience with the instructor.  She was punctual, great with the kids, energetic, a good teacher, and easy to work and communicate with. The students were instructed well in all areas.  How to be a polite dance partner was emphasized. On a scale of 1-10 you get a 10 for Professionalism, Enjoyment and Instruction Quality! We would definitely be interested in using your services again in the future for our Spring and Fall Clubs." Lauren Gardner, Ballroom Dance Club Sponsor

2nd -4th graders in Arlington, VA, February - May, 2008

Special Events

"Thank you so very much for making the "Father-Daughter Tea Dance" such a huge success!! I know all the fathers and daughters thoroughly enjoyed their evening together, one they will remember always. You are so graceful and fluent in all your dancing movements! I really enjoyed your demonstration of the Swing with "rocking horse, quick-quick. And I know the girls appreciated your showing them how to move their arms and hands with such artistry and grace. It was particularly fascinating watching yo follow Brian's lead with your hands lightly touching his chest and your eyes shut! you demonstrated well that the man does the leading. Your choice of words were wonderfully matched for the evening too.Thank you, especially for your perfect example of how a young lady can dance with spunk and spirit without a flirtatioous or seductive air about it. I would have thought this hard to convey, but you showed the fun and "sassy" side of dancing with such a natural ease and grace. I am sure you have inspired some families to continue taking dancing lessons. Thank you again so much for giving my girls and husband the opportunity to learn the finer points of dancing and to learn from an expert. They really had a fantastic time together. " -- Therese Lawless, Homeschooling Association

"The lessons were definitely worthwhile, excellent quality lessons. What I liked most about our experience with instructor was she was able to keep middle school students engaged and serious while still enjoying the dancing, all at the same time. Meanwhile the curriculum also covered teamwork, etiquette, and consideration of others. We definitely would like to use the services of your company again in the future. Even the kids say they want you back for next year’s Promenade Dance class in 2008-09 school year."--Amanda Upton, parent co-chair for Victorian Society, January 2008

Summer Camps

“I was delighted and surprised to see how engaged the kids were thanks to your supportive yet structured teaching style. By accommodating different learning styles the children participated while having fun!” -- Catherine Aselford, Director: Gunston Summer Theatre Arts Camp

Birthday Parties

“My daughter, who is normally shy and reluctant, looked forward to your classes thanks to your engaging personality. She enthusiastically recounted her experiences with me each day.” Colleen Nevius,  Mother of Maureen Nevius


There has been a lot of press coverage over the years concerning raising the "barre" for standards and expectations of childrens' school dance conduct and overall social skills. Below are some general articles about etiquette and social dance in the news. Each school throughout the country has attempted different preventative approaches. Unfortunately, simply banning certain behaviors without providing opportunities or examples of what is considered acceptable sets the children up for failure and adds to the pressure on the schools, chaperones and parents to enforce all the rules. If kids are inspired, empowered and tempted with alternatives that are compatible with a wide range of music styles and ethnic cultures, kids wouldn't need to be scolded, warned or coerced into conducting themselves appropriately and respectfully. School Steps can provide that incentive for your students!

Washington Times, Summer 2008 - Getting the Dance Message

Dancing Your Way to Better Health - reprinted in part
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
By Miranda Hitti

Tangos, waltzes, sambas, and foxtrots are gliding across America's TV sets on the hit ballroom dance show, Dancing with the Stars.Do you tap along with the beat as you watch? Or shimmy during the commercial breaks?This may be one time when health experts won't fret if you follow in the footsteps of prime-time TV. Ballroom dancing could help tweak the mind and body, they say.You're not likely to practice for hours with a world-class dance partner as on the show. But you also won't face live national TV and the judges' barbs.

Will you get a good workout? What about those two left feet? And how can "twinkle toes" benefit your brain? WebMD posed those questions to science, dance, and fitness pros. Here's their spin on ballroom dancing's health perks.

The TV show's contestants are often winded after their routines. One dancer, actor John O'Hurley, says he's lost 15 pounds since he signed on for the show. How typical is that? It depends on the type of dancing and your skill level, says exercise physiologist Catherine Cram, MS, of Comprehensive Fitness Consulting in Middleton, Wis. "Once someone gets to the point where they're getting their heart rate up, they're actually getting a terrific workout," says Cram. Dance is a weight-bearing activity, which builds bones. It's also "wonderful" for your upper body and strength, says Cram.

How many calories will you burn? That depends on your body and how vigorously you dance. Dance is a "moderate activity," say the USDA's physical activity guidelines. Adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily, according to the guidelines, released earlier this year. It can be easier to stick to that with fun activities, says Cram.

New ballroom dancers may feel muscles they didn't know they had. That often happens with a new activity, says Ken Richards, spokesman for USA Dance, the national governing body of DanceSport — the competitive version of ballroom dancing.

Ballroom dancing often means moving backward, especially for women, says Richards, a professional ballroom dancing veteran. "If you're dancing the foxtrot, you're taking long, sweeping steps backwards. That's very different than walking forward on a treadmill or taking a jog around the neighborhood," he says. Ballroom dancing works the backs of the thighs and buttock muscles differently from many other types of exercise, says Richards.

The legs and arms often do the flashy dance moves. But they're sunk without a strong body core. The "core" muscles — the abs and back — are also used in Pilates, says Janice Byer. A lifelong dancer, Byer is group exercise director of The Courthouse Athletic Club in Oakland, Calif. Byer and her husband (whom she met through dancing) are avid swing dancers. They're now working on the foxtrot and salsa and plan to start Argentine tango lessons.

Dance can challenge your mind as well as your muscles. At least one observational study has shown sharper minds with ballroom dancing. The study appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine two years ago. Joe Verghese, MD, and colleagues studied 469 people who were at least 75 years old. At the study's start, they answered surveys about mental and physical activities, like doing crossword puzzles or dancing. Back then, none had dementia. Five years later, 124 had dementia. Frequent dancers had a reduced risk of dementia compared with those who rarely or never danced. Of 11 physical activities considered, only dancing was tied to a lower dementia risk, Verghese tells WebMD. Most dancers did ballroom dancing, says Verghese. He's an assistant neurology professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

How might ballroom dancing help the brain? Verghese outlines three possibilities:
— Increased blood flow to the brain from the physical exercise
— Less stress, depression, and loneliness from dancing's social aspect
—Mental challenges (memorizing steps, working with your partner)
"Dance, in many ways, is a complex activity. It's not just purely physical," says Verghese.

Adults freak over teens' dancing
Schools crack down on resurgent trend
Tuesday, May 29, 2001
By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Teen-agers bump and grind on the dance floor, rubbing their bodies together in undulating rhythm.

Front-to-front. Front-to-back. Girls bend over while boys thrust their hips into the girls' backsides or faces. They straddle each other on the floor. It's freak dancing — a modern version of dirty dancing — and it's wildly popular with teens. Adults, however, aren't so enamored. Many describe it as simulated sex with clothes on. And more schools are cracking down.

“It's girls and boys rubbing their parts all over each other. It's offensive to me,” said Michael Hall, principal at Anderson High School. “It's a huge problem at every school.” Schools nationwide have dealt out detentions and suspensions or canceled dances for infractions. The dance craze, which first appeared in the mid-1990s, has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, thanks to MTV and music videos.

At Walnut Hills High School, freak dancing was so prevalent that during the 1998-99 school year, students and staff developed a guide for student behavior and dress at dances. Now, if students attend a dance, they and their parents must sign a form stating the students will not engage in sexual misconduct on the dance floor. A student caught flouting the rules will be tossed out of the dance and assigned three hours a week of after-school detention for the rest of the year.

“It's lewd,” said Walnut Hills Principal Marvin Koenig. “It's without consideration for the sensibilities and sensitivities of others.” The policy defines inappropriate dancing as including “genital touching, front-to-back grinding (pelvic thrust), dancing on the floor, freak dance "sandwiches' and bending over or other simulated sex acts.”

Private schools also have had to confront it. At St. Xavier High School, an all-boys school in Finneytown, staff worked with the student council to come up with a policy to ban freak dancing earlier in the school year. Elder High School in Price Hill had an outbreak of freak dancing at a Thanksgiving weekend dance until teachers and chaperones put a stop to it. The school has no written policy on dance floor behavior. Tom Otten, Elder's principal and a father of five, understands freak dancing's popularity. “You certainly get close to people. That was, as I recall, always a charge. It's something that looks new and looks exciting. That's the name of the game when you're 17. You do it until somebody tells you not to.”

Some worry that freak dancing will lead to sex. Mark Hines, a 17-year-old junior at Seven Hills Upper School, disagreed. “I've never gone out afterward and had sex because of the way I dance,” the Anderson Township teen said. Mark doesn't believe that freak dancing among teens his age should be deemed entirely inappropriate. “While freak dancing among 12- and 13-year-olds is inappropriate to me, teens my age are racing with hormones and sexual energy, and this is a means to express those feelings,” he said. “I personally am a virgin, and I have no interest in changing that aspect of my life. But I do enjoy freak dancing at times. It is a release.”

Nevertheless, some schools are taking measures to tone down dances. At Nagel Middle School in Anderson Township, DJs are asked to avoid rap and hip-hop tunes that ignite freak dancing. But even if teens face restrictions at schools, they are freaking at private homes and teen dance clubs, such as Club Gravity in Colerain Township and Club Xtreme in Anderson Township. On a recent Friday night, Club Xtreme was packed with dozens of scantily clad teens wearing halter tops, short skirts and shorts who were freak and line dancing.

No matter where it's done, Nagel Principal Michael Stabile finds freak dancing disturbing. “It's a phenomenon that goes to the moral fiber because of everything you see in the media. Many of the kids don't see anything wrong with it. They say it doesn't mean anything. They know what they're doing. It does mean something, especially because of the raging hormones.” Some parents are appalled by freak dancing, while others say they would rather see their kids release sexual urges on the dance floor than elsewhere.

Marianne Kunnen-Jones witnessed freak dancing in her 14- and 15-year-old stepdaughters last summer on vacation. She and her husband accompanied them to a resort's tiki bar, which offered nightly dancing for teens. “The "grinding' made me uncomfortable when I saw it,” said Ms. Kunnen-Jones, 42, of Montgomery. “Like others in my generation, however, I feared the concerns of the proverbial "older generation' would fall on deaf ears if I spoke out. It's hard to know if you'll just be adding to the fun for teen-agers if you voice any criticism.”

Not all teens are fans of freak dancing. Some say it's vulgar. “I think people who are too young should not be doing it at all,” said Michelle Vargas of Oakley, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Walnut Hills High School who does not freak dance. Some say freak dancing is nothing more than the old bump and grind that's been around for decades. Back then, however, adults did it, not teen-agers.

“Everybody can do freak dancing,” said Natiel Hines, a trendologist for StrategyOne, a Washington, D.C., marketing and research firm. “It doesn't require any special choreography. I think that's the appeal. Everybody can do it.”

It's getting attention again, Ms. Hines said, because freak dancers are getting younger — as young as 12 — because they're exposed to the dance through MTV and music videos. Even though dances in other eras were controversial, she said, freak dancing causes concerns among parents and schools because we now live in such a sexualized culture where kids are bombarded by sex in the media, and are having sex at a younger age. “I think (freak dancing) is different because they can actually see how it could lead to a sexual act,” she said. “It takes it too close for a lot of people.”

• In Guam high schools, National Honor Society members have been threatened with a suspension for dancing in an inappropriate manner.

• At Dunwoody High School in the Atlanta area, students were told that if they were caught “dirty dancing” those who violated the policy would be sent to a “timeout” room if caught.

• Gabriel Richard High School in Riverview, Mich., linked dance attendance to passing a quiz about dance floor behavior.

• A Brown Deer, Wis., high school has thrown students out of dances, sent letters home to parents and threatened to suspend youths caught dirty dancing.

• Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia canceled school dances beginning next fall until students can propose rules.

• Dances have been canceled at schools nationwide, including in suburban Los Angeles; Iowa City, Iowa; Anchorage, Alaska; and Bethany, Ky.


School Outlaws "Sexual Bending"
Educators issue rules covering grinding, other dance offenses

JANUARY 26--Like many educators nationwide, administrators at a Wisconsin high school are aiming to curb risque moves at an upcoming school dance. To assure that Union Grove High School students do not get too footloose, school brass have issued official dance rules for the January 30 winter formal. As seen below, the rules outlaw "sexual bending" and the touching of breasts, buttocks, or genitals. Leg straddling is also verboten. Additionally, students are on notice that "Both feet must remain on the dance floor at all times." Which appears to rule out performances of the Charleston, Electric Slide, and Cha-Cha. The dance "will be videotaped to insure the safety of all students attending," the rules note, though Union Grove administrators could presumably review the film for provocative moves that were initially missed by monitors.



BEFORE - Freak and Grind



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Photo credits:
"Best Buddies" Betsy Cameron 1996
"Two Children" Betsy Cameron 1993

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