In August, I learned about a unique and inspiring nonprofit organization called Dance 4 Peace while participating in B.E.T.T.E.R.’s Newark Goes Back to School event. Dance 4 Peace is a global peace education nonprofit that engages young people through dance and creative movement and empowers them to be leaders and peacemakers in their communities. As a yoga teacher, I honor how invaluable and healing physical movement can be to help people of all ages process and positively channel their energy. As a result, I was eager to learn more about Dance 4 Peace and their work in schools around the globe.
Dance 4 Peace was inspired in 2007 when University of Virginia grad and dancer Sara Potler went to Bogota, Colombia, as a Fulbright Scholar. At the time, she was working on an innovative peace education, conflict resolution program called Aulas en Paz (Peaceable Classrooms) with the University of Los Andes. Dance, as she found, was an innovative and interactive way for children to not only have fun, but more readily process the greater goal of Aulas en Paz: acquiring social and emotional skills. In this way, the Dance 4 Peace movement was launched.
Sara returned home in 2008 with the aspiration of bringing this program to schools in the United States. After building the program in response to local demand in Washington, DC, in August 2010, Dance 4 Peace became a 501(c)(3) organization. (Sara, by the way, has done a lot of other impressive work in social entrepreneurship. Check out her bio on Dance 4 Peace’s website.)
In September of 2010, Dance 4 Peace was ready to hit the schools in Washington, DC. Sara then recruited Jessica Feingold (current communications and strategy specialist) and Lindsey Hepler (current curriculum and training specialist) to bring the program to an eager charter school in Bronx, NY, she had connected with via Twitter. Together, these women, along with Ouida Maedel (current outreach and engagement specialist) and the other PeaceMovers brought the first iteration of Dance 4 Peace in the United States--and the growth and evolution of their programming has accelerated ever since.
The PeaceMovers are the heart of the Dance 4 Peace model--the dancers, conflict resolution specialists, and educators who lead the Dance 4 Peace classrooms after participating in one weekend-long training per semester. To make sure everyone’s on the same page and shares their knowledge and experience, they also take part in a variety of meetings and professional development opportunities throughout the semester.
I was amazed when I found out how much Dance 4 Peace has grown in just a year and a half. As US program manager Amanda D’Annucci told me, they currently have 23 PeaceMovers who work in 31 classrooms (and growing!) in NYC, Newark, NJ, Baltimore, MD, and Washington, DC. This is a reach of about 775 students in the United States! Dance 4 Peace also runs partner programs in Germany, the Philippines, and Colombia. I recently dropped in on the weekend training for New York area PeaceMovers. It was an enthusiastic group eager to help children learn important life skills through movement.
How does Dance 4 Peace work with the schools?
Dance 4 Peace is usually integrated as part of the school day for grades pre-K through high school. Schools hire Dance 4 Peace services on a practical-fee basis. As studies show, educational institutions place a greater value on things they pay for (as do people in general!). The schools’ fees help share the costs of Dance 4 Peace’s operations, even providing a stipend for the PeaceMovers, who work an average of 3 to 10 hours per week.
Please learn more about this awesome organization and how to get involved at www.Dance4Peace.org. I’d also like to mention how impressed I’ve been by the amazing group of women who run this organization. In addition to Dance 4 Peace, they are committed to social change and arts education, working with universities and nonprofits, to bring their vision of change to the world.
Yoga brings stability and calm into every discipline of Sophie Herbert's life. She is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student) and a Whole Living contributing editor. She graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art, where she nurtured her passion for documentary photography. It was during this time that she began her disciplined and diverse study of yoga in New York, Paris, and India.
Sophie has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India. She feels grateful to still visit and work regularly with the Deenabandhu Children's Home in Chamarajanagar, Karnataka. In November of 2010, she became an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back www.yogagivesback.org, a grass-roots nonprofit that helps destitute women and girls in India build more sustainable lives. Sophie has also shared her knowledge of yoga at the Prana Yoga Center in Astana, Kazakhstan. Currently, she teaches at the Park Slope Yoga Center www.parkslopeyoga.com in Brooklyn and privately. Sophie is also an avid cook.