As coordinator of the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC’s Early Childhood Education program, Emily Peisach is always in search of diverse activities to app-ease the program’s more than 300 preschool students.
This one seemingly fell right in her lap.
For a five-day stretch last week, the JCC played host to Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones and his “Dancing with the Stars” partner Karina Smirnoff, as the tandem used the center’s dance studio to feverishly train for the show’s 16th season premiere March 18 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Last Friday at 1 p.m. — during the duo’s second seven-hour practice session — Peisach received word that Jones and Smirnoff had a simple request.
“I think someone mentioned to them that we had an early childhood program, and [their production team] said they’d love to do something with the kids,” Peisach said. “They asked us if we would bring all the kids up. We said ‘absolutely.’”
Two hours later, students and teachers alike packed the “Blue” gym and got their own opportunity to “dance with the stars.”
With music pumping from the gym’s loudspeakers, Jones and Smirnoff led the way, teaching those in attendance how to perform the ever-so-trendy “Harlem Shake.” The experience produced countless videos that have made their way onto YouTube and the Ravens’ website. A posting of the video on the JCC’s Facebook page drew more than 4,000 hits.
Peisach said that both Jones and Smirnoff were pros when it came to interacting with the kids.
“They were so good. … Karina was so sweet with the little girls, picking them up, dancing. One girl hugged Karina and wouldn’t let go for more than a minute, and she was totally cool with it,” Peisach said. “The teachers loved it, too. I think the teachers were more excited than the kids. To the kids, it was another activity. To the teachers, it was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff!’”
Earlier in the week, JCC staff fielded a call from a production manager at ABC searching for a fully equipped, private dance studio in Owing Mills. The manager had apparently googled “Dance Studio, Owings Mills.”
The JCC then quietly prepared for their arrival, doing its best to remain hush on the proceedings in the building as not to call attention to the team while it prepared.
When it comes to children, however, the effect of star power is a bit different.
“Some knew who Jacoby was. They knew he was a Ravens player. Most of the little kids didn’t have any idea who Karina was,” Peisach said. “But they were fun and energetic, and that’s really all little kids care about. They had a blast.”