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Growing Up with Dance: Ingredients for Success Growing Up with Dance: Ingredients for Success

Growing Up with Dance: Ingredients for Success

story by Diane Jacobowitz for DanceUs.org

The opportunity to grow up with dance training is a lucky reality for children who can afford to pay. Unfortunately, there are thousands of children in New York City and millions across this country who lack both sufficient parental income and emotional support to pursue dance training on a consistent basis.

There is now a growing irrefutable body of research about the benefits of dance for toddlers, kids, teens, adults, seniors, as well as enormous benefits for individuals with physical, emotional and behavioral disabilities. Inspiring results have been achieved across the autistic spectrum, learning disabilities, cancer patients -- patients suffering from a wide variety of diseases, movement dysfunctions, neuromuscular and neuro-linguistic challenges. Dance education and dance therapy have demonstrated remarkable success and have made great strides in healing and transforming lives in all these populations.

Diane with Dancewave Company students alongside Gala Honorees Paloma Herrera (ABT), Misty Copeland (ABT), Councilman Stephen Levin and WABC-TV's Saundra Thomas
Diane with Dancewave Company students alongside Gala Honorees Paloma Herrera (ABT), Misty Copeland (ABT), Councilman Stephen Levin and WABC-TV's Saundra Thomas

On a broad level, these are exhilarating facts! We have, at our fingertips, an understanding of how to bring enormous happiness to a great portion of the population. And yet, we are limited in our ability to provide these resources to those who need it most.

As a society, we are slowly moving in the right direction. We need funding and continued advocacy in support of public dance education and dance therapy, now a proven and relatively inexpensive methodology to bring joy, confidence, clarity, commitment, focus, teamwork and a host of  other benefits to our nations children. It is a journey, but in New York  City, and in many parts of the country, we are making impressive progress. More folks in professions outside of dance and the arts are actively discussing these positive findings. Jody Arnholds (Director and Founder of Dance Education Laboratory at 92nd St Y) film 'PS Dance', nominated for an Emmy this year, is an inspiring example of this growing advocacy for dance education for all children. 

The talented Dancewave Company with Diane Jacobowitz
The Talented Dancewave Company with Diane Jacobowitz. Image Credits: Wenting Sun

Dancewave is deeply committed to this movement. Since 2001, Dancewave has been providing dance education in the public schools, witnessing firsthand the momentum and excitement that dance brings to traditional education systems. Every year in fact for the past 5 years, Dancewave has organized and run a completely free Master Class Tour. This tour, supported in part  by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, brings free dance classes to up to 15  schools per year, in their preferred dance style, be it hip hop, ballet, modern, salsa, African or Chinese dance.  From the tour alone we have reached over a thousand young people from every borough of New York City. The tour helps us spread the joy of dance to deserving and strongly responsive children and teens in the public schools.

A great dance program, coupled with guidance, mentoring support and aspects of youth development, has the potential to create more than just great dancers. Dance is, in fact a means by which other aspects of life skills can be infused, particularly when supplementing group discussion, individual coaching and team building opportunities. Students in dance learning environments become confident, articulate young adults equipped to make a difference in the world around them. And we, as dance educators, have a chance to level the playing field for young people of all backgrounds, by creating programs that prepare dancers and all students for greater opportunities in tomorrows world.

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