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BalletX partners with Andrew Jackson School for a new afterschool dance outreach program

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Photo credit: Alexander Iziliaev

BalletX, Philadelphia’s premier contemporary ballet, announced the launch of Dance eXchange, a new afterschool dance outreach program with Andrew Jackson School in South Philadelphia. Beginning in March 2014, the program is designed to use dance as a means of helping local elementary school children learn valuable life skills like self-confidence, team work, and creative thinking, while at the same time cultivating BalletX’s dancers into the next generation of Philadelphia dance instructors.

Dance eXchange will take place over the course of eleven weeks in March through May 2014, providing students at Jackson School with a curriculum of hour-long dance sessions held twice weekly. In preparation for this new program, BalletX dancers and artistic staff will undergo a 5-day training workshop during February 24-28 with National Dance Institute (NDI) in New York City, a non-profit founded in 1976 by dancer Jacques d’Amboise and recognized nationally for its award-winning teaching program that reaches thousands of children every week in New York City public schools.

During the workshop, which will be opened up to other members of the Philadelphia dance community, a team of three NDI professionals led by Tracy Straus, Artistic Associate of NDI, will come to Philadelphia to demonstrate their teaching pedagogy for BalletX in daytime classes at Jackson School that engage the entire 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades in dance. In the afternoons, the team will teach core vocabulary and techniques, convey best practices for working with students and schools, and help build the 3-month afterschool curriculum. “This is going to be an incredible experience for students,” says Lisa Kaplan, Principal of Andrew Jackson School, “and every portion of the program will be life-changing for our students.”

Following the workshop, BalletX will begin to apply the NDI teaching method in Dance eXchange’s afterschool sessions in March-May. BalletX will enroll 30-40 students from grades 3-5 in these 1-hour sessions and will harness dance as a vehicle for teaching critical thinking, crucial communication skills, healthy living habits, cultural perspective, and the ability to express oneself through an art form that transcends cultural, physical, and cognitive barriers. Additionally, the NDI teaching method makes performing a centerpiece of the learning process. Students will present a mid-way performance in April, as well as a final showcase for friends, family, and the community that will take place on Friday, May 23, 2014.

BalletX has chosen to work with Andrew Jackson School because of the school’s overwhelmingly underserved demographics; 93% of students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Says Christine Cox, Co-Artistic and Executive Director of BalletX, “NDI is an award-winning program that teaches children many valuable life skills that can have a direct and positive impact on their lives. We are thrilled to be returning to Andrew Jackson School and to have the opportunity to learn and share this quality program with the students.”

Dance eXchange also builds upon BalletX’s preexisting relationship with the school. In 2011, Jackson students contributed to the creation of a new work by BalletX Co-Artistic Director Matthew Neenan entitled Jackson Sounds. That same year, and again in Spring 2013, BalletX featured Jackson’s Rock Band at The Wilma Theater as part of the company’s eXpand the eXperience audience enrichment program.

For more information on Dance eXchange please visit www.balletx.org.

To learn more about National Dance Institute (NDI), visit www.nationaldance.org.

- Steven Weisz

Founder & Editor
While not a dancer himself, Weisz’s love for the arts and dance started as a child growing up in New York City. With parents, who were strong supporters of the arts and part of a community with an incredible array of notable artists in music, dance, theater and fine arts, Weisz’s access and affinity for the performing arts took root. Upon attending college in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania in the mid 70’s, Weisz started performing as a puppeteer, magician, juggler and fire eater as a means of supplementing his income. This soon grew in to what became Rainbow Promotions Inc., one of the largest entertainment and special events producers in the region. It was here that he began to promote and book dance for major events throughout the city. Many of the dancers he worked with in the early days of his company are now major choreographers in Philadelphia. At the same time, Weisz’s interest in computers and the early developments of what is now known as the Internet, led him to also start another company, Delaware Valley On Line, which became one of the first regional ISPs. It was this combination of event production, internet development and event marketing that led him to examine the use of the internet as a means to promote the arts. Dance continued to be a major interest for Weisz and in 2005 he founded PhiladelphiaDANCE.org as a major online resource to promote dance in the city. It was soon after that the Dance Journal was also founded as a way to provide an outlet for writing on a range of topics that encompass the ever growing and emerging dance community in the region. Weisz continues to run both PhiladelphiaDANCE and The Dance Journal on purely a voluntary basis with no income derived from any of his projects. He is also the Artistic Director of Graffito Works, a unique platform for dancers and performing artists to create site-specific work and to make it readily accessible to the public.

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