Arts Ed NJ Guest Blog: Dance to Learn Commits to Diversity in Dance Education

Dance to Learn Commits to Diversity in Dance Education

Originally published by Arts Ed NJ Guest Blog on September 19, 2019

Guest Blog by:

Michelle L. Marigliano

YA Arts Education Program Manager
& Assessment Specialist

Dance to Learn Program highlight with Flyground Dance at Wiggins Elementary School.

Dance to Learn is a 4-year hands-on sequential curriculum for grades 2-5 that advances dance education in schools. Working with a professional artist, students create, choreograph, rehearse, and perform an original dance piece and learn multicultural and historical aspects of dance.

The program was created in 2009 in response to the Dodge Foundation’s call to action to increase dance in New Jersey’s schools. According to the 2017 NJ Arts Education Census Summary Report  only 4% of schools offer K-5 students access to active participation in dance.

Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA (YA) partners with Dance New Jersey, professional dance companies*, and committed classroom teachers to implement the program. Dance to Learn is a framework for schools working to address New Jersey’s Core Student Learning Standards for Visual and Performing Arts. The original Dance to Learn curriculum was grounded in dance education with a focus on the elements of western contemporary modern dance and creative movement.

Dance to Learn Program highlight with Flyground Dance at Wiggins Elementary School.

Today, the Dance to Learn community is reaffirming its commitment to recognizing and supporting the assets of all students, teachers, and artists, inclusive of all physical, intellectual and cultural traits. Putting this commitment into action, the Dance to Learn community has come to recognize the curriculum’s limitations. In its current form the curriculum offers a view of dance focused on western dance movements. This new initiative will expand the curriculum to introduce students to the histories, skills, and knowledge of dance forms that represent vast cultural, traditional, and contemporary dance styles from around the world.

The Dance to Learn community gathered for its annual education day in September to explore how to advance racial, ethnic, class, gender, and dis/Ability equity through the project and how to incorporate dance forms from a variety of cultures and traditions.  Dr. Lela Aisha Jones and Dr. Chanelle Wilson   guided participants through a full day of professional learning that used movement explorations, selected readings, and reflection to examine how and where Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) themes show up in their personal lives, organizations, and Dance to Learn residencies.One participant commented, “I really appreciated the very basic ways we discussed bringing cultural responsiveness to our practice.”

The expertise and knowledge of dance companies like Fly Ground, Soul Steps, Segunda Quimbamba, and Nai Ni Chen will help expand the curriculum to include orientations of dance founded in Black and African Diasporic dance, Puerto Rican heritage and culture, and traditional and contemporary Chinese dance. The Dance to Learn community is excited to embark on this journey.  To learn more visit

Dance To Learn Dance Companies at D2L Annual Education Day

*The following dance companies participate in Dance to Learn: Derling Dance Arts, Fly Ground, FreeSpace Dance, Segunda Quimbamba, Nimbus Dance Works, Nai-Ni Chen, 10 Hairy Legs, Roxey Ballet, and Soul Steps