My freshman year (2014) I wanted to volunteer and to do so regularly. So, I went to what was at the time volunteer services (now Give Where You Live) and looked at there Semester of Service programs for the semester. As luck would have it, there was one position that really stood out to me: teaching dance for the New Brunswick 4H dance program. As someone who took a variety of dance classes for thirteen years, this seemed like a great idea.
For the first year we ran the program for an hour every other Friday out of Unity Square. There were three teachers including myself and after the first semester none of us were working through any Rutgers program, but with the 4H. After that school year I was the only teacher to stay with the program.
Starting in the summer of 2015 we moved the program to the New Brunswick Public Library in the hopes of a higher attendance (hopes that were fulfilled). The program has been going on there for a little over a year with us holding one 2 hour session per month (days vary based on my class schedule). I’ve taught everything from ballet to soft shoe to break dancing to the cha-cha to students ranging from toddlers to grandmothers. We’re even expanding into the local after school system with a new STEAM Program which will combine basic science lessons with dance.
It’s a great program to teach, requiring diverse knowledge and providing a great opportunity to expand kids’ cultural knowledge. For example, most classes we have a rotating door of students — each only staying as long as they can or only coming in when they hear a song they like. Last class, there was a period of twenty minutes where there was only this one fifth grade boy who only wanted to learn turns. So, I taught him to spot while doing chaines (two step turns), then showed him piques and arabesque turns, and releve turns. He was very excited about until I let it slip that these were ballet turns after which he started to complain because, “Ballet’s for girls.”
Which was, of course, something I needed to correct immediately.
So I pulled out my phone and googled boys ballet and showed him the second video that popped up (watch it, they’re really good). After a few moments, impatient with the fact we were no longer dancing, he commented:
“They’re wearing tights.”
“Yes, but do they look girly?”
“How do you think they look?”
“They look cool, can we get back to spinning?”
Point made, we went back to turns until a group of boys came in who wanted neither jazz nor hip hop, but settled for Michael Jackson for the last fifteen minutes of the class. But still, at least one boy learned it was okay to do ballet.
Not all of the classes have anything as clearly perspective changing as that, but I can still introduce pretty much any kind of music or dance that I want to, providing both physical activity and new experiences.
However, I will be graduating next year and would like to start training new people ASAP, so if you’re an underclassmen and this seems like a position you would like to have, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if this just seems like something you would like to come and participate in, or if you know a kid who would like to participate, our next class is this Friday, November 11, from 1:30-3:30. The current plan, inspired by the boys from my last class, is “Thriller”. However, if there’s something you’d like to learn, feel free to ask.