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Dance to Learn is a 4-year hands-on sequential curriculum for grades 2-5 that advances dance education in schools. Working with a professional artist, students create, choreograph, rehearse, and perform an original dance piece and learn multicultural and historical aspects of dance.


The program was created in 2009 in response to the Dodge Foundation’s call to action to increase dance in New Jersey’s schools. According to the 2017 NJ Arts Education Census Summary Report only 4% of schools offer K-5 students access to active participation in dance.


Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA (YA) partners with Dance New Jersey, professional dance companies*, and committed classroom teachers to implement the program. Dance to Learn is a framework for schools working to address New Jersey’s Core Student Learning Standards for Visual and Performing Arts. The original Dance to Learn curriculum was grounded in dance education with a focus on the elements of western contemporary modern dance and creative movement.


Today, the Dance to Learn community is reaffirming its commitment to recognizing and supporting the assets of all students, teachers, and artists, inclusive of all physical, intellectual and cultural traits. Putting this commitment into action, the Dance to Learn community has come to recognize the curriculum’s limitations. In its current form the curriculum offers a view of dance focused on western dance movements. This new initiative will expand the curriculum to introduce students to the histories, skills, and knowledge of dance forms that represent vast cultural, traditional, and contemporary dance styles from around the world.


The Dance to Learn community gathered for its annual education day in September to explore how to advance racial, ethnic, class, gender, and dis/Ability equity through the project and how to incorporate dance forms from a variety of cultures and traditions. Dr. Lela Aisha Jones and Dr. Chanelle Wilson guided participants through a full day of professional learning that used movement explorations, selected readings, and reflection to examine how and where Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) themes show up in their personal lives, organizations, and Dance to Learn residencies. One participant commented, “I really appreciated the very basic ways we discussed bringing cultural responsiveness to our practice.”


The expertise and knowledge of dance companies like Fly Ground, Soul Steps, Segunda Quimbamba, and Nai Ni Chen will help expand the curriculum to include orientations of dance founded in Black and African Diasporic dance, Puerto Rican heritage and culture, and traditional and contemporary Chinese dance. The Dance to Learn community is excited to embark on this journey. To learn more visit http://www.yanjep.org/dance-to-learn/


*The following dance companies participate in Dance to Learn: Derling Dance Arts, Fly Ground, FreeSpace Dance, Segunda Quimbamba, Nimbus Dance Works, Nai-Ni Chen, 10 Hairy Legs, Roxey Ballet, and Soul Steps

Dance To Learn 2019 - Lela Aisha Jones/Fly Ground Dance at Wiggins Elementary School

For several years, I’ve been a patron of the London School of Contemporary Dance. In 2016, I was invited to give the annual lecture in honor of founding principal Robert Cohan, and I decided to talk about the role of dance in schools.


Before the lecture, I tweeted the title “Why Dance Is as Important as Math in Education.” I had a lot of positive responses and a number of incredulous ones. One tweet said, “Isn’t that going to be one of the shortest lectures ever?” Another said flatly, “Ken, dance is not as important as math.” One person tweeted, “So what? Telephones are more important than bananas. Ants are not as important as toilet ducks. Paper clips are more important than elbows.” (At least that was a creative response.) Some responses were more pertinent: “Is that so? Important for what and to whom? By the way I’m a math teacher.”


I’m not arguing against mathematics — it’s an indispensable part of the great creative adventure of the human mind. It’s also intimately involved with the dynamics of dance. Instead, this is an argument for equity in educating the whole child. I’m talking about the equal importance of dance with the other arts, languages, mathematics, sciences and the humanities in the general education of every child.

Dance can help restore joy and stability in troubled lives and ease the tensions in schools that are disrupted by violence and bullying.

What is dance?

Dance is the physical expression through movement and rhythm of relationships, feelings and ideas. Nobody invented dance. It is deep in the heart of every culture throughout history; dance is part of the pulse of humanity. It embraces multiple genres, styles and traditions and is constantly evolving. Its roles range from recreational to sacred and cover every form of social purpose.


Some people have long understood that dance is an essential part of life and education. In Dance Education around the World: Perspectives on Dance, Young People and Change, researchers Charlotte Svendler Nielsen and Stephanie Burridge bring together recent studies of the value of dance in all kinds of settings: from Finland to South Africa, from Ghana to Taiwan, from New Zealand to America. The low status of dance in schools is derived in part from the high status of conventional academic work, which associates intelligence mainly with verbal and mathematical reasoning. The studies collected by Nielsen and Burridge explore how a deeper understanding of dance challenges standard conceptions of intelligence and achievement and show the transformative power of movement for people of all ages and backgrounds. Dance can help restore joy and stability in troubled lives and ease the tensions in schools disrupted by violence and bullying.


A number of professional dance companies offer programs for schools. One of them is Dancing Classrooms, a nonprofit based in New York City, which brings ballroom dancing into elementary and middle schools in some of the most challenging districts in the country. Using dance, the organization aims to improve social relationships especially among genders and to enrich the culture of the schools by cultivating collaboration, respect and compassion. Founded in 1994 by the dancer Pierre Dulaine, the program now offers each school twenty sessions over ten weeks, culminating in a showcase.


Toni Walker, former principal of Lehigh Elementary School in Florida, shares this story from working with Dancing Classrooms. “When this young lady first came to Lehigh, the file on her was probably two inches thick,” Walker recalls. “She felt she needed to prove herself and make sure everyone knew she was strong and would fight.” The girl didn’t want to join the ballroom dancing program … but participation wasn’t optional. Soon, she found she had a natural ability. “In the next lesson, she had a little bit of a different attitude and we didn’t have to fight with her to dance,” Walker remembers. “She just got in line.”


By the third and fourth lessons, Walker says, the student was transformed: “She carries herself differently; she speaks differently; she is kind; she is respectful; she has not had one [disciplinary notice], not one. Her mother can’t believe what she sees. It’s amazing. Amazing. The program is far greater than people understand.”

In one evaluation, 95 percent of teachers said that, as a result of dancing together, students’ abilities to cooperate and collaborate improved.

Dance education has important benefits for students’ social relationships, particularly among genders and age groups. Many forms of dance, including ballroom, are inherently social. They involve moving together in synchrony and empathy, with direct physical contact. In an evaluation of Dancing Classrooms in New York City, 95 percent of teachers said that as a result of dancing together, there was a demonstrable improvement in students’ abilities to cooperate and collaborate. In a survey in Los Angeles, 66 percent of school principals said that after being in the program, their students showed an increased acceptance of others, and 81 percent of students said they treated others with more respect. Dance has economic benefits, too. As well as being a field of employment, dance promotes many of the personal qualities that employers recognize as essential in a collaborative, adaptable workforce.


One principal was especially impressed by the improvements in reading and math scores among her fifth-grade students. “There are no ifs, ands, or buts about the program’s impact in the academic lives of our children,” says Lois Habtes of the Emanuel Benjamin Oliver Elementary School in the Virgin Islands. “When I first got here, they were failing scores. Last year — our second year in the program — they got up to 83 percent. This year, our fifth grade scored 85 percent on the reading test, the highest in the school.”

Dance and theater are mostly seen as second-class citizens in schools.

It’s not just dance, of course. The success of Dancing Classrooms is an example of the well-documented relationship between physical activity and educational achievement. The trend in most US school districts is to cut physical and similar programs in favor of increasing time for math, science and English. These measures have simply not improved achievement as so many policy makers assumed they would.


A panel of researchers in kinesiology and pediatrics conducted a massive review of more than 850 studies about the effects of physical activity on school-age children. Most of the studies measured the effects of 30 to 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity three to five days a week on many factors — physical factors such as obesity, cardiovascular fitness, blood pressure and bone density, as well as depression, anxiety, self-concept and academic performance. Based on strong evidence in a number of these categories, the panel firmly recommended that students should participate in one hour (or more) of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day. Looking specifically at academic performance, the panel found strong evidence to support the conclusion that “physical activity has a positive influence on memory, concentration and classroom behavior.”


Most children in public schools in the US receive some education in music and visual arts, patchy though it often is. But dance and theater are mostly seen as second-class citizens, and opportunities in the arts, in general, are lowest for students in areas of high poverty. “There are still millions of students who do not have access to any arts instruction. Many of them are in our poorer communities where the programs are arguably needed the most,” says Bob Morrison, the founder and director of Quadrant Research.


Would it be okay to have millions of students without access to math or language arts? he asks. “Of course not, and it should not be tolerated in the arts. There is a persistent myth that arts education is for the gifted and talented, but we know that the arts benefit everyone regardless of their vocational pathways,” he says. “We don’t teach math solely to create mathematicians, and we don’t teach writing solely to create the next generation of novelists. The same holds true for the arts. We teach them to create well-rounded citizens who can apply the skills, knowledge and experience from being involved in the arts to their careers and lives.”

Excerpted with permission from the new book You, Your Child and School: Navigate Your Way to the Best Education by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica. Published by Viking, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Copyright © 2018 by Ken Robinson.


Sir Ken Robinson is a global leader in educational reform and a New York Times bestselling author. Professor Emeritus at the University of Warwick in the UK, he advises governments, corporations, education systems, and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations. Lou Aronica s the author of four novels and coauthor of several works of nonfiction, including the national bestseller “The Culture Code” (with Clotaire Rapaille), “The Element” and “Finding Your Element.” This piece was adapted for TED-Ed from this Ideas article.

Musicology is a proud sponsor of DanceSport Education, which takes the gift of music and ballroom dancing into underserved schools in our community. Through hard work and commitment, children as young as 4 years old learn coordination, discipline, social skills, confidence and self-esteem…all through the joy of dancing. THIS gives us something to sing about!

– Mary Goodman, Owner of DanceSported

Make a Difference in the Life of a Child

Outreach and Access

Provide Financial Support to Increase Outreach and Access:


With the current trends of diminishing public funding for sports and arts programs, and the inability of many parents to privately afford those, especially in low-income, at risk school communities, children and youth remain negatively impacted and are deprived of participating and experiencing the benefits of those opportunities. This also includes the students, who are homeschooled, or study in distance learning programs, as well as those with special needs, for whom we will provide a venue, so that they have access and opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. Sadly, the talent of many children remains unnoticed and unrealized.

Competitive Athletes

As a sport, DanceSport is a relatively new sport in the U.S. and dancesport athletes do not receive the financial underwriting of those in other established sports. We are dedicated to the success of the DanceSport athletes. We want them to continue to learn, grow and develop competitively and remove any financial barriers that might stand in their way to get noticed, realize their talent and succeed at the top.

DanceSport Education provides donors an opportunity to increase outreach and access of the program to otherwise severely underserved student communities; to help shape a generation of healthy and thriving children and youth; and to underwrite the creation of achieving, top level US athletes.

Benefits of DanceSport

Ultimately, the practice of DanceSport creates a lasting, life-time impact in the lives of children and youth in several major areas:


Improved School Culture and Student Achievement:

DanceSport is more than just a dance. It is unique, as it combines the elements of both arts and sports. The benefits of arts education and participation in sports on the entire school culture are impressive—especially student motivation, attitudes, and attendance. Increased access and involvement in arts education and sports programs encourage students to stay in school, succeed in school, life, and work.


Personal Fulfillment:

DanceSport helps children and youth to fulfill their dreams to express themselves artistically through movement and ballroom dance. It allows them to get noticed and realize their talent as top DanceSport athletes locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, proudly representing the U.S in the world DanceSport arena.


Life, Health, Fitness and Safety:

Ballroom dance is a Lifestyle Medicine, a natural antidote to the 21st century chronic diseases – high blood pressure, cardiac diseases and diabetes. By its nature, it provides a natural venue for healthy lifestyle beginnings. DanceSport combines the art of dance with the composure of athletics. DanceSport develops physical strength, agility, coordination, stamina, endurance and fitness. Its practice has an anti-bullying effect – it promotes discipline, respect to others and teamwork.


Emotional Balance:

DanceSport practice contributes to positive psychological benefits and elevated self-esteem. Movement and dance improves the emotional well being of all children and youth, especially those, with cognitive and emotional challenges in dealing with conflict resolution and violence.


Competitive Edge for Competitive Athletes:

DanceSport cross training gives competitive edge to other competitive athletes through improved balance, strength, improved awareness of physical presence, improved special relationships, breathing, footwork, agility, endurance and improved emotional well being.

The CDC recommends that children and adolescents do at least 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day. This can easily be met by adding dance classes into your weekly routine. Increasing your daily exercise is only one benefit, there are TONS more! Like making new friends, participating in a creative, beautiful and unique art form, learning dance technique, expressing emotion and working in a group.


Dance can also open new opportunities in terms of future careers. There are numerous professions in dance from dancing, teaching, and choreography. In addition to this, people work in the dance industry as; community dance performers, promoters, producers, designers, publicists, technicians, physiotherapists, medical and alternative practitioners, therapists, writers and academics.


Dancing also develops skills that can translate to many non-dance career paths. The confidence gained through achievements in dance builds social skills, increases self esteem and the ability to communicate well in a group.

Why should you dance

So Many Reasons to DANCE!

– Keep the body and the brain active… DANCE … this is vital for people of every age

– Dance improves strength and flexibility, keeping muscles and joints healthy

– You meet new people and make friends with people who have similar interests

– Dance helps you learn about your body, improving your posture and balance

– Dancing releases endorphins and helps to reduce stress levels

– Dance can offer insight into other cultures, either through the dance style itself or meeting new people

– Dance can lead to new career opportunities, or help build vital communications skills needed in every profession

– Dance helps to increase your self esteem and confidence through mastering new skills

– Dance offers a creative outlet for people to express their personalities in a safe environment

– Dance is a fun way to open up new possibilities, keep healthy and enjoy yourself

EVERY DAY HEALTH: Our stories are medically reviewed and medically fact-checked by board-certified specialists to ensure that all factual statements about medical conditions, symptoms, treatments, procedures and tests, standards of care, and typical protocols are accurate and reflect current guidelines as well as the latest research.

These days, people love to watch other people dance. Competitive dance shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars are dominating the world of reality television. What you may not realize, however, is that if you get off the couch and dance yourself, it’s a great way to keep your body and mind healthy. Studies show that dancing can help you lose weight, stay flexible, reduce stress, make friends, and more.

Boost Memory

These days, people love to watch other people dance. Competitive dance shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars are dominating the world of reality television. What you may not realize, however, is that if you get off the couch and dance yourself, it’s a great way to keep your body and mind healthy. Studies show that dancing can help you lose weight, stay flexible, reduce stress, make friends, and more.

Boost Memory

Improve Flexibility

Improve Flexibility

Those plies and arabesques that ballet dancers practice aren’t just for aesthetics — they also increase flexibility and reduce stiffness. You can skip the ballet slippers and still reap the benefits of ballet by practicing some simple stretches at home. Increasing your flexibility will help ease joint pain and post-exercise soreness.

Reduce Stress

If you’re feeling tense or stressed out, you might want to grab a partner, turn up the music, and tango! In a controlled study in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, researchers found that partner dance and musical accompaniment can help bring about stress relief.

Reduce Stress

Diminish Depression

Diminish Depression

Dancing really does lift your spirits, according to a study in that tested the effects of dancing on people with depression. Patients who participated in an upbeat group dance showed the fewest depression symptoms and the most vitality. Got the blues? Grab a friend and go out dancing tonight.

Help Your Heart

Dance is a great activity for those at risk for cardiovascular disease. People with heart failure who took up waltzing improved their heart health, breathing, and quality of life significantly compared to those who biked or walked on a treadmill for exercise, noted an Italian study.

Cardio Dance

Lose Weight

Lose Weight

Bored with your bicycle? A study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that an exercise program of aerobic dance training is just as helpful for losing weight and increasing aerobic power as cycling and jogging.

Balance Better

If you are nervous about falling as you get older, some dance lessons might help ease your worries, according to a study in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity that showed tango dancing can improve balance in aging adults. Dancing requires a lot of fast movement and good posture, so frequent dancing will help you stabilize and gain better control of your body.

Dance for Balance Better

Increase Energy

Dancing Increase Energy

Can’t seem to find your get-up-and-go? Taking a dance class might help. Research published in The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition found that a weekly dance program could improve physical performance and increase energy levels among adults.

Make Friends

A dance class is the perfect setting to make new friends and branch out socially. Maintaining positive relationships may just rank up there with healthy eating and exercise. Being socially engaged leads to increased happiness, reduced stress, and a stronger immune system.

Samba Dance Moves


On Monday Parents Invincible, a new non-profit headed by longtime Camden activist Shirley Irizarry, sent a questionnaire to all Camden schools seeking information on how schools will address learning loss and meet the needs of students this fall. The survey questions were drafted based on questions and input from parents and community members. Parents Invincible will use the results of the survey to build a toolkit for parents so they can be up to date on the city’s return to school this fall.


Camden’s public schools spent much of the year remote, with schools introducing some in-person learning between February and May of this year. District high school students did not return in-person at all.


To address the impact of Covid-19 on schools, New Jersey has received nearly $4 billion in federal funds from the Cares Act and the American Rescue Plan. The vast majority of these funds will flow to districts.


As schools receive millions of dollars to support Camden students, we want to make sure parents are fully aware of how schools are spending these resources. After this tough year, we want to ensure all of our students return to schools strong in the fall. For this to happen, we need to ensure parents have a clear understanding of what to expect, and proactively address some of the issues and concerns they have raised with us. The line of communication starts with parents. We hope all schools participate in being transparent and timely in their responses.

Shirley Irizarry, Camden activist


The survey was sent out to all public schools, including district, charter, and renaissance schools. Parents Invincible’s toolkit will provide another opportunity for schools to reach families across the city.


With the influx of federal dollars, we have been hard at work planning for the fall. We are committed to being transparent with our families on how we will use these dollars to meet the needs of students, and we welcome Parents Invincible’s advocacy and support in getting this important information out to families

– Constance F. Horton, Executive Director of Freedom Prep Charter School.


On Tuesday the New Jersey Department of Education released its much anticipated pandemic guidance for schools. The state is removing most mandates and pushing decision-making authority to the local districts.


The state’s guidance allows us flexibility to ensure the health and safety of our families while ensuring that we provide in-person instruction and meaningful remediation to address learning loss. We care deeply about ensuring our families are well informed, and we depend on partners like Parents Invincible to hold us accountable to always living up to that value.

– Clayton Gonzalez, member of the Camden City Board of Education.

Increasing access to affordable homeownership and higher wage employment for young people in Camden, NJ.


Affordable housing and a unique pathway to homeownership program that elevates our youth from facing homelessness to building long term wealth through homeownership.

Elevate Our Youth

Not enough affordable housing, as well as housing services, available for those in need in Camden County

– Camden County has the fourth-highest number of people experiencing homelessness in the state of New Jersey.

– Not enough housing services available in Camden County.

– The annual cost of living outpaces the median family income by over $20,000 for Camden County residents.

– Transportation, housing, child care, and health care are the top expenses for families in the County.

– 19% of households spend 50% or more of their household income on housing.

– 21% of households experienced at least one of four housing problems: overcrowding, severe cost, lack of kitchen facilities, lack of plumbing facilities.

– Eligibility criterion limits the services available to individuals needing employment assistance, in particular for veterans or people who are housing-insecure.

The real eviction crisis in New Jersey

Around 60,000 evictions are pending across the state, data from the state judiciary shows. Matt Shapiro, president of the New Jersey Tenants Association, said those likely represent only a fraction of evictions that will be filed once the moratorium ends.


“Most landlords haven’t filed evictions because of the lockout moratorium,” Shapiro said. “If we don’t do something, you’re going to see 200,000, 300,000 pending evictions.”


Eviction filings declined dramatically in 2020 after the moratorium went into effect, according to judiciary data. From April through the end of the year, 46,245 evictions were filed across the state, down nearly 60% from the 112,888 filed during the same period in 2019.


If evictions had not been on hold, it’s likely the number of 2020 evictions would have been much higher than previous years. One estimate said almost one-third of renters failed to pay their rent fully and on-time in July.

Our Solution

Patented “Path to Homeownership” & “Path to Financial Freedom” Programs

Universal Initiatives (Millennial Housing Foundation) joined forces with Hopeworks in Camden City, New Jersey, to provide young people between the ages of 18 and 26 years old with hope for a promising future. Our collaboration provides underserved young people with affordable housing and a unique pathway to homeownership program that elevates our youth from facing homelessness to building long term wealth through homeownership. By working together, Hopeworks and UI help young people break through cycles of generational poverty by accessing higher wage employment and equity through homeownership.

– Improved mental health and access to mental health resources;

– Improved wages and long term employment sustainability;

– Reduced homelessness and or housing insecurity;

– Reduced poverty and reliability of state or federal assistance vouchers;

– Improved independence and productivity as community and national residents;

– Improved civic engagement and volunteerism;

– Improved financial literacy and long term savings;

– Improved homeownership maintenance literacy and homeownership process;

How You Can Help

By working together, we can increase our impact and opportunity for young people in Camden City to access affordable housing solutions and elevate to homeownership with our support. Here is how you can help us reach out goals for 2022:


– Donate!

– Volunteer at a local fundraising event;

– Donate property and or land that can be used to provide affordable housing for our residents;

– Volunteer as a mentor for our young people;

– Give a scholarship to our young people;