Young Audiences of Northeast Texas’ dance program is focused on the critical middle school years and is designed to teach the art of dance and to promote creativity, critical thinking, cultural awareness, communication, and learning across all subjects.
13 years ago, a Met Life “Dance for Life” grant initially funded a yearlong dance residency at Dogan Middle School. In 2011 a UT Tyler “21st Century After School” grant allowed for expansion into additional schools. The program is currently happening in 2 Tyler ISD Middle Schools, Moore and Hogg and in Winona Middle and High Schools.
Dance is not taught at the middle school level in Tyler and this program provides an opportunity for girls to gain dance experience prior to high school while also developing a positive self-image. “Creating Balance through Dance” uses dance terminology, technique and choreography as the foundation for the residency, over laid with journaling and team work that explores the challenges they face on a daily basis. Different dance styles including Jazz, Ballet, Lyrical, Folk and Hip-Hop are covered throughout the program.
Our goal is to engage at-risk girls at a critical juncture in their development. Research has identified this age as the time that girls develop their lifelong self-image. By providing the opportunity for middle school girls to engage in positive, self-esteem building extracurricular activities, our dance program helps girls to avoid the all too common pitfalls of middle school years. In today’s evolving society, there is no denying that pop culture, media and entertainment has a significant influence on young girls. Girls comparing themselves to popular images in the media, and coming up short, is a well-researched phenomenon. Through our yearlong dance program, girls will experience, understand, and create the art form as well as connect what they have learned to other areas of their lives.
The program’s evaluation data shows an increase in student performance on several key indicators. The girls who participate in the dance program have higher levels of attendance, lower incidents of discipline referrals and maintain higher grade point averages than their peers who are not participants.
This program teaches young women that physical activity, creativity, teamwork, and individuality are all things to be cultivated and celebrated within themselves. By building dance classes into their school-day routines, students are able to clearly see the connections between dance and academics, encouraging them to achieve success in both. In addition to learning about the art of dance and the importance of physical health, dancers complete daily journaling exercises where they are able to compile their thoughts on the process of being a dancer and how it affects them on a personal level.
The ultimate goal is to teach the art form of dance in order to positively impact academic performance and 21st Century Skills, and to empower them in overcoming the negative portrayal of how girls “should” look and behave. They focus on using creative and free movement to release the stress and tension brought on by these challenges.
“I have personally seen our young ladies embrace this wonderful dance program, who might not otherwise be engaged in school. Dance has been an excellent vehicle for helping students expresses themselves and thus become more involved in school.”
Middle School Principal
“Our school is 96% economically disadvantaged which means our families are not able to provide the opportunity for their children to attend private dance lessons. Exposing them to all forms of dance and seeing the joy they have on their faces is one of the highlights of my year. Over half of the students that participate continue in the dance program at the high school level – many eventually becoming an officer. We have been so very fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to have this program on our campus.”
Middle School Principal