learn / 2014

Everybody Dance!: Transforming Lives Through High-Quality Dance Education

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by The Gabriella Foundation

everybody dance! will collaborate with 3 public schools to provide 2,400 students in kindergarten through middle school with dance classes.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

everybody dance! will collaborate with 3 public schools to provide 2,400 students in kindergarten through middle school with dance classes.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA

What is your idea/project in more detail?

everybody dance! is the largest program in Los Angeles providing high-quality, long-term dance training to underserved, inner-city children. Instructors teach multiple dance genres, including ballet, tap, hip-hop, modern dance, jazz, contemporary, creative movement and boys’ only acrobatic dance classes.

We reach over 2,400 inner-city students annually with in-school and after-school dance education, but everybody dance! turns hundreds of children away each year. In FY 13-14, 800 children applied for 220 available openings. An LA2050 grant would help us to increase our capacity by 10% in FY 14-15.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

We use dance as a means of transforming the future for at-risk children and youth, instilling in them the life skills – resiliency, self-discipline, teamwork and respect for themselves and others – that we want them to carry over to their personal, family and community lives.

In the 2014-2015 school year, everybody dance! will provide over 200 in-school and after-school dance classes per week at six sites in Central and South Los Angeles.

Instruction is enriched with master classes taught by leading companies such as Alvin Ailey and Diavolo, field trips to view professional performances, and frequent performances at community events and annual sold-out performances at USC’s Bing and Bovard Theaters.

We work hard to create a culture of high expectations. Students are expected to be punctual, attend class consistently, respect their teachers and classmates, and understand the value of a strong work ethic. Dance requires effort and dedication and our students learn quickly that there are no shortcuts.

Parent engagement makes our program thrive. We build commitment to everybody dance! by requiring families to volunteer 15 hours annually. The benefit of prioritizing family engagement is that parents bond together across ethnicities while working together even as they model the value of ‘giving back’ for their children. The result is a tight-knit community of parents and young dancers in neighborhoods traditionally split by gang affiliations and racial divisions. In annual surveys, many students and parents describe everybody dance! as “family.”

These combined elements – program breadth and quality, high expectations, consistent instruction and parental engagement – are what we believe make our program succeed.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LEARN today? In 2050?

A growing body of research confirms that arts education plays an integral role in children’s lives. With relatively low household incomes, most inner-city residents cannot afford to enroll their children in costly private arts programs. Arts education budget cuts of nearly 50% in Los Angeles Unified School District over the past six years [1][2] have increased the need for accessible programs in the city’s underserved neighborhoods.

As a result of their participation in our dance program, students will demonstrate:

• Increased proficiency in the language and skills of dance; • Increased appreciation for the arts; • Increased sense of community; and • Increased positive self-development.

For the nominal fee of five dollars per month, everybody dance! students have access to a range of dance classes – in ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, choreography, boys’ aerobics and modern– taught by our team of dance educators, heralded by the Los Angeles Times as “some of the best children’s dance instructors in the world.”

Our students dance an average of 2.5 hours per week and some attend class daily. For the majority of our students, everybody dance! provides not only an opportunity to engage in art and practice dance, but also a safe haven from the crime and poverty they face in their neighborhoods. Within this safe, nurturing community, students are supported by our dedicated staff as they develop the skills necessary to succeed academically and professionally.

[1] Abdollah, Tami. “LAUSD arts funding cut 76% in five years.” 89.3 KPCC, Southern California Public Radio. 12 Oct. 2012. Web. May 26, 2014. . [2] Plummer, Mary. “LA schools arts budget: Most funding will go to ‘arts integration’ teachers.” 89.3 KPCC, Southern California Public Radio. 21 Feb. 2014. Web. May 26, 2014. .

Whom will your project benefit?

everybody dance! serves children and youth (ages 4-19) who reside in the densely-populated neighborhoods near downtown Los Angeles, including Echo Park, Pico-Union, Westlake, Highland Park, Koreatown, East Los Angeles and South Los Angeles. The student population is approximately 90% Latino, 5% Asian American, 2% African American, 1% Caucasian and 2% other ethnicities. Approximately 58% of students are female, 42% male. In the communities served by everybody dance!, median annual household income ranges from $25,767 - $49,082; between 17% to 49% of people do not own a car; and between 30 to 52% of adults aged 25 and over lack a high school diploma. The population per square mile ranges from 13,545-50,125, a vast difference from the population per square mile for the County (2,480) or State (247).

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

everybody dance! will work with three long-term key collaborators to implement the proposed project.

1) Gabriella Charter School: We provide daily dance instruction during the school year to 436 K-8 students at Gabriella Charter School, a dance-themed Title 1 elementary and middle public school. As the School was formerly a program of The Gabriella Foundation,, this is an especially close partnership. The School provides us with studio space and shares administrative resources.

2) Camino Nuevo Charter Academy: Since 2000, we have provided weekly school-day classes to Camino Nuevo Charter Academy. This year, we expect to provide 45 weekly classes to over 1000 students in the summer/fall and 25 weekly classes to nearly 400 students in the winter/spring at the three K-8 campuses of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, a Title 1 public inner-city charter management organization. In return, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy provides us with studio space, for our after-school program, shares resources and allows us to reach even more underserved areas of Los Angeles’ inner-city.

3) LAUSD’s Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts (the School District’s downtown arts high school): Last year, we began providing dance classes after-school at LAUSD’s downtown arts high school. We plan to increase enrollment in FY 14-15. The School provides us studio space and shares resources. This collaboration allows us to reach more students and to expand our reach in the City’s downtown core.

Critical to the success of these collaborations is open communication between dance program and school staff, mutual commitment to the project and a shared belief in the importance of arts education to academic success.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Learn” metrics?

  • Percentage of community college students completing a certificate, degree, or transfer-related program in six years
  • District-wide graduation rates
  • HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math
  • College matriculation rates

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

The positive impact of dance on learning and psychological development has been widely documented in academic research. Dance activities support the development of fluency, originality and critical thinking skills (Deasey, 2002), improve test scores, school attendance, responsibility, self-discipline, and – just as importantly – an understanding of delayed gratification and work ethic (Brooks Schmitz, 1990b).

Over the past two years, 94% of everybody dance! graduates ages 17-19 went to college. In comparison, only 66% of Los Angeles Unified School District high school graduates go on to college.[1] Our students’ scholastic achievements are all the more notable when considering that a third to half of adults in the communities we serve lack a high school degree.[2]

Examples of this success include Sandy Vasquez, 18, a UCLA student double majoring in English and Chicano Studies, Eunice Castro, a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering at UC Irvine and Amaris Jacobs, 18, a Pasadena City College student who says, “everybody dance! has definitely helped define my character in such a positive light. I really don’t know where I’d be or what I’d be doing if I had not found out that my talent and passion is dancing.”

Gabriella Charter School (GCS) – established by The Gabriella Foundation and now a separate but linked nonprofit – partners with everybody dance! to provide students with daily dance instruction. Despite the fact that 91% of GCS students qualify for the federally subsidized meals program, test scores at GCS each year have substantially exceeded the State’s 800 API target (894 API in 2012), making GCS one of Los Angeles’ top-performing schools.

In 2013, it its annual survey, USC ranked Gabriella Charter School the second best charter school in California.

Given these results, we believe that everybody dance! has the power to dramatically improve academic performance, high school graduation rates and college matriculation and transfer rates in Los Angeles County.

[1] Rokhy, Ron. “LAUSD below state average of high school graduates attending college.” The Daily Sundial. 1 Nov. 2011. Web. Feb. 4, 2014. http://sundial.csun.edu. [2] 2014 demographic estimate by Scan/US, Inc.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Because the impact of arts programming is so difficult to quantify, our dance program makes use of multiple methods to measure program effectiveness:

-Written questionnaires are utilized yearly to gather input from parents and teenagers on how the program impacts students and to assess programmatic strengths and weaknesses.

-Dance instructors administer skills tests twice annually to assess student improvement in dance skills and knowledge and complete individual student report cards twice annually that record and measure student punctuality, compliance with dress code, ability to listen and follow directions, effort, focus, and spatial awareness.

As a result of participation in our program, students will demonstrate:

a) Increased proficiency in the language and skills of dance;

b) Increased appreciation for dance and the arts;

c) Increased sense of community; and

d) Increased positive self-development.

Our rigorous, sequential dance curriculum is designed to increase students’ dance knowledge and physical skills over time and develop their appreciation for the art of dance. Outcomes “a” and “b” directly influence one another, e.g., it is expected that as students learn more about ballet history and technique, they will also develop an increased appreciation for that art of ballet.

To enhance community as well as build commitment to our dance program, we require families to contribute 15 service-hours per year. Parents volunteer as bus, door and hallways monitors, organize fundraisers and parties, clean studios and assist on field trips. This parent engagement creates a supportive atmosphere that reinforces students’ sense of community (outcome “c”), which is further developed as they build friendships with peers during training.

Meanwhile, as children learn to push themselves in the studio and listen to teachers, they begin to develop the life skills for positive self-development (outcome “d”). Students see the parent and staff community model respect, cooperation, and responsibility, and come to more deeply understand those values. At the same time, witnessing their parents contributing hours to our program reinforces students’ sense of commitment to everybody dance!

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

1) Consistent, high quality arts education has an enduring impact on children:

Research has shown that meaningful, consistent arts exposure has a significant, enduring impact on children’s physical and mental development. Academics such as UCLA’s James Catterall have shown that arts-rich schools have better attendance, fewer disciplinary problems, more effective teachers, and happier, more engaged students.

2) Arts education programs have the greatest impact on children in underserved communities:

Catterall’s research also showed that for students of low socioeconomic status – defined by family income, parental job status and parental education level – the positive effects of arts education were more dramatic than for students of high socioeconomic status. In short, arts education programs like ours have the greatest impact in underserved, low income neighborhoods.

[1]Catterall, James S., Susan A. Dumais, and Gillian Hampden-Thompson. The Arts and Achievement in At-risk Youth: Four Longitudinal Studies. Washington, D.C.: National Endowment for the Arts, 2012.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Originally established in 1999, The Gabriella Foundation’s program everybody dance! began in 2000 by providing 12 weekly dance classes to 35 children in a low-income housing project just west of downtown LA. That program has since grown to become the largest dance program in LA providing sequential, long-term dance training to underserved, inner-city children and youth. Today we provide more than 200 weekly school-based and after-school/weekend classes to more than 2,400 students at six inner-city sites.

After over fourteen years of program success and continued growth, we are confident that the proposed project will be successfully completed in the next twelve months.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Challenge 1: everybody dance! is working to increase enrollment at its new after-school program site, Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, where we began offering classes in October 2013. We expected to have 15-20 students per class, but currently have an average of nine per class. This low number is likely due to the fact that these classes are limited to high school students and that the program began two months after school started, when students’ schedules were already set. The start of everybody dance! classes will coincide with the start of the school year in the 2014-2015 school year.

Starting in January 2014, we loosened our enrollment requirements, added incentives to encourage students to recruit friends, and hosted a series of open houses for interested students and parents in order to boost enrollment and raise our profile at the new location. We also added a part-time coordinator to oversee the program. These adjustments have resulted in an enrollment increase – we have an average of 16 students per class now – that we hope to continue in the 2014-2015 school year.

Challenge 2: Our planned program growth necessitates increased infrastructure as well as added staff and instructors. In anticipation of the potential difficulties of this growth, The Gabriella Foundation recently completed a strategic plan that outlines the steps we will take to increase program capacity while maintaining program quality through simultaneous organizational growth.

In accordance with our strategic plan, we are in the process of being evaluated and advised by an expert organizational consultant to help us to make the necessary infrastructure changes to support our planned program growth.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)