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Cleveland's "Junior Jitterbugs" Win Junior Championships in International Competition

Cleveland's Denison Elementary students strut their stuff.
Cleveland's Denison Elementary students strut their stuff.

The Lindy Hop has its roots in the 1920's when African Americans at iconic Harlem clubs like the Savoy made dance history with their upbeat and acrobatic moves. The Lindy Hop is also a dance students at Denison Elementary in Cleveland's Brooklyn Centre have been studying at a free afterschool program for the past seven years.

Valerie Salstrom: Five, six, five, six, here we go..

Thanks to a patchwork of grants, Valerie Salstrom of Get Hep Swing helps students like these through the intricate yet loose steps.

Valerie Salstrom: I want to spread the love of this dance form that I love to make sure that people can speak that language so it doesn't die. But I also hope they will develop self-confidence and they'll learn how to be self-disciplined.

Over the years, Salstrom has taken some students to contests around the country. This year, the kids asked to go again, this time to the International Lindy Hop Competition in late August. The project money was gone. So this summer, Salstrom coached the kids for free. They met nearly every day and managed to get everything - from entry fees to gas money - donated. The work paid off.

A youtube video shows 13-year-old Hannah Abel and 11-year-old Kevin Tucker dancing the routine that won them the junior championship. Their Cleveland teammates also won in the junior division, bringing home second and third places. Many of the kids had never been out of state before. Twelve-year-old Alexandria Gross said the experience was unforgettable.

Alexandria Gross: It was fun because we got to dance with a lot of people that we didn't know and try new things.

Basking in their victories, the kids get a few weeks off before dance classes start up again.