Arts & Cultural Vitality / 2013

Shall We Dance in LA?

Shall We Dance in LA?

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by For Learners of All Ages

For Learners of All Ages believes in developing innovative solutions to the challenges facing our community by cultivating collaborative lifelong learning. It was difficult to ultimately select the most relevant indicator for our organization's proposed projects. Though intersecting with education, social connectedness, we believe that through cultivating and enriching arts and cultural vitality these other pieces fall into place. The arts in public schools continue to suffer from budget cuts. With increased focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in K-12 education, remaining funding is centered around related subjects. The arts, and in particular, dance, is being pushed aside as less relevant. For many students, it is the artistic, cultural, creative, and physical elements of the school day that keep them coming back and staying academically involved. At the same time, it is these same elements in our communities, city, state, and nation that draw people in and motivate them to invest themselves. For this reason, many students from the Northeast San Fernando Valley are bused to other parts of the Valley and City or to private schools where holistic education takes place. At the same time, this is the reason why Northeast Valley residents commute to Hollywood, Downtown, and Santa Monica to invest their recreation time. But change is in the air. To this end, our My LA 2050 idea is: 1) to implement an after school Bachata dance program in four high schools in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and at Los Angeles Mission College and 2) to create a dance festival based in the Northeast San Fernando Valley serving as a culminating event for our students, a major artistic/cultural community event, and a way of showcasing vital community resources, in this case the Boys and Girls Club of the San Fernando Valley.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

For Learners of All Ages was incorporated 6 months ago. We received our 501c3 charitable status in February of this year.

A baker’s dozen in size, our staff includes credentialed teachers, one active and one former university professor, a former engineer who helped put man on the Moon, a former United States Marine, community college students, as well as university graduates and post-graduates. We are each linked by our commitment to cultivating the minds, bodies, and spirits of our community.

We have gained support for our dance programming from the LAUSD and Polytechnic High, Sylmar High, and the Cesar Chavez Learning Academy. Los Angeles Mission College and the Boys and Girls Club of the San Fernando Valley also have welcomed our proposed project.

While we have only listed our involvement with four public schools, our programming has been requested at several other schools. Being that we are a new organization, our programs are fresh, and we have no current funding we have decided to focus our energy on a handful of schools for the time being. We are far more interested on the quality of our work and the growth of our students.

Initially, our dance programming focuses on Bachata, however, the Island Touch Dance Academy has provided us free use of their choreographies, including Crunkchata, which is an individual-based dance more appropriate for younger dancers. We have other dance companies, ranging from Mexican Folklorico, hip-hop, and even the flow-arts who would like to work with us. However, we first need to set our initial programming successfully in motion.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

The LAUSD, three of its schools, Los Angeles Mission College, the Los Angeles Education Partnership, the Neighborhood Councils of the Northeast San Fernando Valley, Island Touch Dance Academy, the Boys and Girls Club, and Heroes of Life are, and will continue to play pivotal roles in the execution of this and other programs.

Our organization is very young and started out six months ago with zero community partners. But, with the support of these and other organizations, we have been able to grow considerably in a very short period of time.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Success will be measured in a variety of ways:

1) Students will learn and be able to perform 15 basic and 10 intermediate Bachata dance steps, understand the musical structure of Bachata music (time signature and instrumentation), know the origins of the Bachata dance style, and have an appreciation for a variety of Bachata musicians.

2) Students will be able to create and perform their own unique Bachata choreographies;

3) Diverse community events are and will be created, and our dancers will have opportunities to perform on the public scale in a variety of venues. Aside from instructor-based assessments, these performances will enable FLAA to measure the growth of dance skill of our students;

4) Students will be provided Health and Wellness assessments when starting and finishing our programming. They will also develop their own wellness goals. In this way we will be able to document what they learned. Our assessments are based on California Education Code and recommendations made by the Health Department;

5) A major point of emphasis is lining up our after school programming with in-school (between the bells) learning. We, along with Island Touch Dance Academy and the LAUSD, want to create physical education alternatives that include our dance styles and projects. Part of determining our success will be accomplishing this objective. To take this to the next level, we are also focusing on aligning our instruction with the philosophies/styles of the Common Core Standards, the new learning model to be introduced during the next academic school year in the LAUSD and across the state of California.

Our ability to support teachers and schools on this regard will be a key factor to determining our program’s success.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Our dance programming will benefit Los Angeles in many ways.

-We will be programming to LAUSD schools that desperately need support. We are doing this at no cost to the LAUSD or to students;

-Through our projects, we are enabling communities like Sylmar, San Fernando, Arleta, and Pacoima to diversify their community-based cultural events. Two such events, the Sylmar Health and Wellness Fair and the Sylmar Olive Festival are coming up, and we are already on board in terms of providing performances and other support.

-The second aspect of our proposal creates a new dance/arts festival. While this first year will, at this point, be one day long, this is only the beginning. Our focus is creating events for our students to showcase themselves and connect with their peers, community members and leaders, and dance professionals. This winter’s event will have a corresponding event at the end of the spring school semester. Summer students will also have their own culminating event. Alumni of our programming will be welcome to continue in our projects and events, creating a sustaining community/family.

As a small, new organization, For Learners of All Ages is using these events to create and support more programming and public activities across the 10 communities we are pledged to serve: Sylmar, San Fernando, Pacoima, Lake View Terrace, Sunland, Tujunga, North Hills, Mission Hills, Panorama City, and Arleta.

Our activities will also serve as a model for other parts of the San Fernando Valley, and the city and county of Los Angeles, creating sustainable, duplicatable programming with documented, peer-reviewed results that translate on school records, greater and broader cultural and business activity, and overall community value.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

In the year 2050 we expect to see a healthier, more vibrant, and community-minded constituency in our neighborhoods. We intend to see greater academic success in terms of both students and educational institutions. We are focused on project-based learning that is then applied back to the classroom, and we will see more and more education taking place within the community itself, not just confined to a campus or between the official school day. The arts are key to the growth of cultural identity and vivacity, and their growth will make our schools far more attractive to students and beneficial to their intellectual, physical, and emotional development. The success of our dance projects will help propel our other aspects, in particular music, forward as well as other niche interest areas that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Among our youth there are future costume designers, set creators, program developers, film creators/producers, and on. Through what we are doing now, we will enable these niches to open and get exploited. For Learners of All Ages is committed to the entrepreneurial mentality, and we are going to instill it through diverse methods, including dance, music, and academic-supporting programming. We am witnessing a transformation in the education-community relationships ourselves, K-12 students. We are focused on the eventual melding of community and school campus, where youth and adults alike work together on project-based learning projects, where youth and adults alike share business interests, professional and personal pursuits, and community sustainability. These projects have already started, but by 2050 we expect this type of action to be the standard practice within the LAUSD and to have become a model template for communities across the county, state, nation, and globe. While we create all of this, we are documenting, as this is in many ways a research experiment. We anticipate studies to be published over the upcoming years. With all of this said, when it comes to dance, ultimately by 2050 we anticipate living in a world where it is a staple of our educational system and used as a way to integrate academic success, emotion-based learning, and community/activity-based service.