On Thursday, February 4, elementary students from Chavez Multicultural Academy – an Urban Gateways Community School – paired up and “Danced-Off” against students from five other schools in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood.
The Dance-Off was the culmination of a four-month, after-school program called “Dancing with Class” – which focuses on building community bonds through the medium of social dance. Since October, the Chicago social dance studio May I Have This Dance has provided weekly lessons at all six elementary schools. Then the students came together for a final Dance-Off, in which partnered with both their classmates AND with dancers from the other schools.
“We have a fundamental belief in the power of social dance to build and strengthen communities, to bring people of all socio-economic backgrounds together, to do something that brings joy and strengthens respect for self and others,” said Margot Toppen from May I Have This Dance.
This is the fourth year that the studio has taught “Dancing with Class”, but this year, the studio also added an apprenticeship program. May I Have This Dance trained 15 juniors and seniors from Lindblom High School to assist with the elementary school dance classes; and the classes are also having a positive impact on them.
“I initially participated in the program because it was a part of a grade for my class, but as time went on, I realized that I was not just doing this for a grade,” said Jahliel, a senior at Lindblom High School and one of the apprentices. “I enjoy working with children and impacting their lives in a positive way. These students are Latino, and I am African American. The cultural gap between our races is becoming extremely large. Not only do I use this opportunity to be a positive influence to the youth, but I help bridge the gap, showing that we are all equal.”
The Dance-off took place at Chicago’s Linblom High School and involved the following elementary schools: Chavez, Daley, Hedges, Lara, Namaste, and Seward.