The San Diego Dance Institute is an arts education organization whose mission is: to develop in at-risk youth their innate capacity to express themselves through dance and related arts, via community-based programs guided by trained professionals who nurture each individual's creativity and self-esteem.
Established in 1990 as City Moves!, a children's dance program of the San Diego Foundation for the Performing Arts, the organization became independent in 1992 when the Foundation closed. It changed its name in 1997 to the San Diego Dance Institute to reflect the board's strategic plan to concentrate on community-based educational activities. Current programs are: I Can Do That! interactive assembly programs in which children create choreography with our teaching artists; specially commissioned programs such as: National City Moves! in collaboration with UCSD and the National School District; and the County Department of Education's Arts Academy in Lakeside, California. We are entering our fourth year with our primary program, City Moves! after-school residencies in five City Heights schools and community centers and three schools in Southeastern San Diego.
San Diego Dance Institute aims to serve young people through the arts, rather than distributing the arts to young people. We seek to create safe havens for youth, free of physical or emotional dangers, encouraging a free exploration of thoughts and ideas, and to provide access to opportunities for success. We offer community-based programs that build on what young people already know and develop the gifts each person brings to the group. We believe that mentoring by professionally trained artists can positively affect the personal, creative and cognitive development of youth. We encourage children to expand their dance education to include self-respect and respect for others, non-verbal communication, collaboration, and creative problem solving tools that aid in their growth and maturity, keeping them in school and out of trouble.
We design residencies to teach dance and literacy through movement, poetry, storytelling and visual art. The curriculum theme augments school efforts to increase each child's vocabulary and word/language acquisition ability. Classes include basic warm-up and movement exercises, and proceed towards the creation of a theme-based dance created and performed by the students. Each theme allows the children to choose or create a story and create dances based on it. Children may write their own original stories and adapt them for dance or translate existing stories (or social studies, science or math assignments) to dance. The theme keeps the choreography focused because the children "own" the dances and the processes by which they are created.
Interaction with Professional Artists:
Dance Institute teaching artists are professional dancers. Early in the residency, a local dance company performs for and dances with the kids. Later in the residency, we introduce a visual artist who works with the children to craft scenery and props for their final performance. We time the visual artist's visit after much of the theme-based dance is created so that the artist can assess how the children are progressing on the theme. Dancers and artists are extremely disciplined and focused individuals who teach their students to think and act creatively and professionally.
The Final Performance:
Focusing on the final performance is a powerful motivator for education and an excellent avenue for success. The children are responsible for creating the choreography and presenting it in a professional manner. All children who perform get a Dance Institute T-shirt and the opportunity to shine. At the end of the performance, the teachers present an award to each child, created to recognize his/her individual accomplishment. With final performances, we realize our goal of social interaction, language acquisition, literacy and understanding through the communicative power of dance.
Dance Institute Staff:
The Dance Institute also employs 32 professional dancers and dance students as community dance teachers.
San Diego Dance Institute
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