CityDance DREAM Program

CityDance DREAM

CityDance DREAM Program

CityDance, Inc.
1111 16th Street, NW
Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202.347.3909
Fax: 202.318.3909
E-Mail: alexe@citydance.net
URL: citydance.net

Focus: Dance

Annual Number Participating: 150

Ages: Elementary School, Middle School, High School

Annual Budget: $375,000

Partners: African American Civil War Memorial and Museum; District of Columbia Public Schools; The Wooden Floor

Funders: D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation; D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities; The Barbara Epstein Foundation; The Harman Family Foundation; The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation

It’s halftime at a Washington Wizards basketball game at Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center. And, the crowd is in for an unexpected treat. As music with a pulsing beat issues from the loudspeakers, 150 young people wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the word “DREAM” spill onto the court. During the next five minutes, they deliver a high-energy hip-hop dance with such commitment and flair that by the time it’s over, the arena is filled with smiling, applauding fans.

Dancing before a crowd of thousands at the Wizards game is “really awesome,” exclaims Chyna McCleary, a 10th grader who participates in the CityDance DREAM Program that was featured at the game. “You feel like a superstar out there, dancing with the DREAM kids,” she adds. But this moment is important for another reason, notes Kelli Quinn, DREAM director for CityDance, a dance training and presenting organization in the District of Columbia and Maryland. After nearly two months of rehearsals, the students finally see the fruits of their labors. “It’s the moment [when] they recognize what hard work does for you and what working together feels like,” she explains.

CityDance provides its free after-school and summer program to students in grades 3 through 5, at six elementary schools in lower-income D.C. neighborhoods. Middle and high school students can continue in an “alumni” program that combines dance instruction with academic tutoring.

Along with teaching dance forms, DREAM uses its classes to instill the skills needed for success and the confidence to reach higher. The program also promotes community engagement: Each group studies a local issue, like homelessness or hunger, and develops a dance based on that theme for their year-end public performance. Together, the classes, performances, and community-service projects combine to “create a vision for the students of what’s possible, give them some tools to identify their goals and dreams, and say, ‘OK; here’s how I go about achieving that goal,’” explains Alexe Nowakowski, CityDance’s executive director.

The DREAM Program builds important life skills. CityDance’s 2011–2012 formal evaluation revealed that 86 percent of the students improved their ability to work cooperatively and collaboratively in teams and that 100 percent showed the capability to produce a team-choreographed performance.

I learned to believe in myself. Even though something is hard, you have to push through. I can do things if I put my mind to it.

Valeria Cruz grade 12, participant, CityDance DREAM Program