Dance in the Community

After School Dance Program

Mar 1 2024

Dance in the Community was more than just a series of steps and movements. It was a platform for refugee and immigrant children to express themselves in a new environment, using the universal language of dance. Every Tuesday from 4 to 5pm in the month of February, the Massanutten Regional Library echoed with sounds of laughter as children gathered with dance instructors to learn and practice creative movement.

Led by Suzanne, a JMU Dance professor, the program aimed to bridge cultural gaps and connect people in the community. For the elementary schoolers, opportunities for after-school activities are sometimes scarce, but through Dance in the Community, they found a space to bond, have fun, and explore their creativity.

Suzanne explained that she hopes "to give them the opportunity and outlet to be creative and express themselves." She understands that newly arrived children face challenges in accessing resources and finding the time for extracurricular activities. Dance in the Community aims to break down these barriers, providing a safe and welcoming space for expression.

But it wasn't just a one-way street. "We want to learn from them," Suzanne emphasized. "What they provide our community  makes it richer so we can all thrive together.  They’re bringing some amazing things--their creativity, their type of movement. So, we’re learning from them as much as they are from us."

Hailey, a JMU dance student, echoed Suzanne's sentiments. "We help make it an accessible avenue for them, something they can enjoy and express themselves through," she said.

"Dance is a universal language," said Suzanne. "You don't always need to speak. So, it's an easy way to connect with students whose English might not be their first language. It was nice to see them bonding and having a great time.”

Image 23 of 23