Field Trip Into the Minds of the Students.

Four weeks into Dancing with Class Core Program I had the students give me feedback on how it is going so far.  I asked a few questions and here is what they had to say:

Brenda: What has been the most challenging thing about the program?

Wiam: Dancing with a partner because I have never danced with someone before. The "closed-hand position" is the most challenging. (The majority of the class agreed with his response).

Brenda:What is the best thing?

Emilia: The best thing is learning new moves and having fun!

Brenda: What is your signature move (the one move you feel you do best)?

Damian: The boogie walks aka "walking it out".

Brenda: What are you most excited about?

Wiam: Learning how to dance so I can dance at my family's parties.

Brenda: What do you believe makes a good dancer?

Adilene: "You know you are a good dancer when you have rhythm in your blood and you have the music in your heart." Not being shy also helps.
Alexis: A lot of practice.

It is very typical for fifth and sixth graders to feel uncomfortable dancing with their peers particularly in closed-hand position. However, week by week it is apparent how this feeling lessens as they start viewing each other as a team. I love that the students realize that this will go past this program and the competiton. This not only regards the moves but also the respect and etiquette in social dancing such as the proper way to ask someone to dance. What better way than to share this knowledge and put it to practice with one's peers and family?!

The last answer moved me. I was so excited to read this and I loved it so much that it is hanging on my fridge. I could not agree more with Adilene. A good dancer is more than just having the right steps and technique.  It is about the passion and the love for dance, about following the rhythm and music within! And of course not being shy and tons of practice do help!! :) It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes.

“Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.” 
― Martha Graham

* Answers were from one classroom from the Back of the Yards Program 2013. Only a few answers were selected.

Dance as Therapy

As some of you know, in addition to teaching through Dancing with Class and at May I Have This Dance, I am a student nurse.  For one of my classes I had to do a report on a Complimentary Alternative Therapy.  Naturally, I chose Dance Therapy.  Sorry for such a long blog, but this is a topic that I find fascinating.
I learned that Movement/Dance Therapy has a great many benefits.  It is effective for individuals with developmental, medical, social, physical and psychological impairments.  I found it interesting that this therapy can be especially helpful for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Movement/Dance Therapy helps when someone's experience is so traumatic they can't talk about it; it has the potential to access emotions and issues that may be inaccessible in verbal therapy.

I am clearly in a unique position to report on the benefits of dance because I have all of my fellow instructors experiences, as well as my own.  None of us are certified Movement/Dance Therapists but we have all seen the benefits of dance. Here are some of the things that I learned from other Dancing with Class instructors:
Rachel Singer spoke with me at length about a workshop she took with Dance for Parkinson's Disease (  She told me about one man who couldn't raise his arms much higher than parallel to the ground. However, after a few months of dance he was able to reach for the sky.  Some other patients found that their tremors would often decrease or even temporarily disappear during and after class, sometimes giving them relief for 1 or 2 weeks!!  Here is a quote from Rachel that I liked a lot, "Dance and movement is a way for them (Parkinson's patients) to escape; but to escape through the thing that challenges them the most."
Nicole Gifford told me about her experience teaching a dance class to widows and widowers.  She was able to help them remember joyful thoughts that not only gave them a temporary escape, but also gave them something to look forward to in their lives.  They then brought these thoughts to life by enacting them physically through dance.
Dawn reminded me of students who have used dance to mend their bodies and minds.  With a doctor's consent, these students saw much faster recovery from physically problems and surgeries like shoulder and hip ailments.  Their doctors were impressed with the speed of their recovery.  Other students have used dance to get over a bad break-up or divorce.
Personally I have worked with autistic and blind children.  It was so fulfilling to see the caring showed by the other students when dancing with the autistic or blind children.  It was clear to me that the other students were sweet and sensitive but their other classes did not give them the opportunity to share this side of themselves.Additionally, I have seen children who dislike gym class and sports embrace dance.  Their faces light up when they find this physical activity in which they are able to excel.

Movement/Dance Therapy is used as a Complimentary Alternative Therapy for many illnesses including Alzheimer's disease, dementia, autism, PTSD, depression, eating disorders, rape victims and survivors of sexual abuse and incest.  It is also helpful for those with chronic and life threatening illnesses such as cancer to help deal with pain, fear of death and changes in body image.  This therapy can be utilized to aid the deaf, blind, physically handicapped, mental retardation and learning disabilities.  It is even helpful for those confined to wheelchairs.  And health insurance may cover some or all costs.
If you're interested in learning more about Movement/Dance Therapy check out the American Dance Therapy Association at