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Dancing Classrooms Coming to Minnesota!

By Andrea Mirenda and Ember Reichgott Junge

Heather didn’t have a happy childhood. The challenges in her family caused her so much trauma that she rarely spoke. Some thought she was mute. Then her mother found a way to enroll her in dance classes—ballet, jazz, tap.

“Dance transformed my life,” she told us. “Without dance, I don’t know where I would be today.” Heather continued to dance over the following decades and even trained to be a ballroom dance instructor but decided that wasn’t for her. “I wanted to work with children, not adults,” she said. “I wanted the children to have the same experience I had.”

We are delighted that Heather has joined our newly formed Minnesota nonprofit Heart of Dance as our newest teaching artist bringing Dancing Classrooms to fifth-graders in Minnesota. We invite you to join us on this exciting journey.

Maybe you’ve seen Mad Hot Ballroom, an award-winning documentary capturing the Dancing Classrooms journey from classroom experience to the culminating Colors of the Rainbow Team Match. Or maybe you’ve seen Dancing in Jaffa, a feature-length documentary released in 2014 depicting founder Pierre Dulaine’s work in bringing ballroom dance to fifth-grade Israeli Jewish and Palestinian children in his hometown of Jaffa. (The lasting friendships bridging the divide bring tears to your eyes). Since 1994, Dancing Classrooms has reached almost five hundred thousand children in hundreds of schools in twenty-four cities across the United States and five sites internationally.

Dancing Classrooms is now coming to Minnesota! Heart of Dance has been granted a license from global Dancing Classrooms to become its thirtieth site. When we set our goal of ten classrooms of fifth-graders for each semester of the 2015-2016 school year, Dancing Classrooms thought we were “ambitious;” they don’t know Minnesota! Today we have eighteen of twenty classrooms confirmed or pending confirmation for the coming school year. We hope to exceed our goal so that even more fifth-graders can participate in our inaugural year.

The semester curriculum includes two forty-five-minute dance classes each week for ten weeks. But Dancing Classrooms does more than teach ballroom and Latin dance steps: the program is about young people overcoming social anxieties and learning gender respect, conflict resolution, teamwork, and social etiquette. It is a highly developed curriculum that is integrated into other subjects like cultural studies, writing, visual arts, music, math, and physical education. Dancing Classrooms teaching artists collaborate with school teachers to connect the program to the rest of the curriculum. The results are clear. Research has shown that Dancing Classrooms:

We are delighted with the interest we’ve seen from educators in public district schools, charter schools, and private schools in the Twin Cities area and beyond. We are pleased to work with allies like the Cowles Center for Dance and Performing Arts, the Perpich Center for Arts Education, and a variety of prospective funding groups. But we need your help to make this successful.

Here’s how you can help!

Introduce us to your favorite educators!

Would you like to see Dancing Classrooms come to your former elementary school or the school your child, niece, or grandchild attends? We still have room for additional schools each semester in 2015-2016 in the Twin Cities area. Now is the time to connect us with your school principal or teacher friends! Yes, each school is asked to contribute to the cost of the classroom—usually around $2,000 per classroom—but don’t let funding stop anyone. Heart of Dance provides assistance to school leaders and helps them identify fundraising opportunities outside their normal budget through local businesses, vendors, parents, and other local school-based donors.

Connect us with potential sponsors!

Maybe you know someone who is passionate about bringing dance to children at their neighborhood school and would consider becoming a school sponsor. Let us know! We’ll do the rest.

Build a post-Dancing Classrooms pipeline!

How can we keep our Dancing Classrooms alumni engaged in dance? Might we build an infrastructure together where dance volunteers mentor or “adopt” Dancing Classrooms alumni after their Colors of the Rainbow Team Match? Perhaps this would be of interest to our collegiate dancers. What a way to build our ballroom dance community of the future!

We founded Heart of Dance because we are passionate about bringing ballroom dance to those who haven’t experienced it and who stand to gain from its benefits, including young people, older adults, veterans, and those struggling with mental health issues. We begin our journey with this proven program for young people as a foundation for possible expansion to other future constituencies in Minnesota.

As founders, we bring experience as well. Andrea Mirenda is a ballroom dance educator of over twenty years who coaches, judges, and MCs and was long-time owner of several studios. Ember Reichgott Junge is an amateur ballroom dance student, lawyer, former state senator, nonprofit executive, and development professional who currently serves as a national consultant in nonprofit board governance and charter schools.

Would you like to join us and help build Minnesota’s future ballroom community? Send us an email at HeartofDanceMN@outlook.com or contact Andrea at 651.283.6799 or Ember at 612.750.1262 to learn more. Or check out our booth at the Twin Cities Open!

Dancing Classrooms of Minnesota is about transforming young lives one step at a time. Thank you for your support; it will make all the difference!