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How to Promote Diversity in Dance Classes for Kids

I could be "Minnesota Nice" and skirt around the issue, but I'm not going to be. The Dance Education Industry here in the Mid-West sometimes looks pre-civil rights era. There are literally black studios and white studios as if they had labels above their doors and in their audition rooms. I understand some studio's location just doesn't support diversity. I also understand the intention of creating an all minority dance schools; following Alvin Ailey's method of promoting African Americans in dance by creating a non-profit and seeking out minorities for his amazing, and at the time, revolutionary company. Bringing light to an issue that needed fixing, I applaud him and other studio owners following in his footsteps. However what was then revolutionary and needed, is now segregating our dance community. How do we promote diversity without segregating dancers?

Seven years ago, I vowed to answer that question. I was a Dance Instructor and a proud Mother of two wonderful Kenyan American children. I knew that I wanted them to grow up in a diverse dance community, but I couldn't find it. So, from the ground up, I built a studio in the heart of St. Paul and welcomed every one in my doors, in my heart, and in my dance family. I vowed to support diversity, teach diversity, and live diversity. Since then, I have found an out pouring of community support for a diverse dance studio for kids here in the Twin Cities.
Many people believe that we are a non-profit that seeks out minorities to give scholarships to in order to stack our numbers. That is not true. We are a business proving that not only is diversity in dance a need, it's what the industry is craving. We provide the highest quality Music and Dance education in a culture that fosters and promotes diversity through our welcoming nature and our commitment to serving all.

What's our secret?
First, we start young, age 2 yr. old for dance classes, age 1.5 yr. old for music classes. They welcome all their Dance-N-Magic Friends and many become best friends for life. Their friend may have a different color skin, may have 2 Moms, or may be autistic; they love them just the same.

Second, we attract like minded families who want to see their children grow up to be happy, healthy, kind, well-rounded, and caring.

Third, we abide by the following policies:

How Do We Promote Diversity In Dance?
We at Dance-N-Magic make a pledge to welcome everyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identification, body type, shape, physical ability, and mental ability. Everyone is welcome here at Dance-N-Magic. There are several steps we take to ensure that we are not only making that pledge, but putting it into action. As we continue to grow and learn, new steps may be added. Please let us know if you have an idea on how we can promote diversity in dance.

  1. Class placement is decided by teacher recommendation combined with parent approval and a student’s commitment level. Anyone willing to commit themselves to their dance education is given a shot to advance in our level system. Audition systems often discriminate against who is “right” for the group which leads to alienating people of differing ethnicities, different body types, and those that may have the skill, but lack the “right look.” We pledge to never use auditions for leveling.
  2. We allow unlimited make-up classes for all recreational classes in any other age appropriate class. Not only does this promote those with communicable diseases to stay home, it also allows those who celebrate various religious holidays to observe them with their families.
  3. All of our costuming is body type and family friendly. No open mid drifts or strapless costumes allowed in the studio. Tights are provided for costumes that have skirts or shorts. This helps ensure that every body type will feel comfortable, feel welcomed in any class, and look great on stage.
  4. Often in costumes, there is a gender differentiation. If you feel that you would want a costume other than your assigned girls or boys costume, let us know before they are ordered and we will accommodate you. Costumes for our regular season are typically ordered by Dec. 1st.
  5. All Instructors will modify any dance movement to be able to fit your physical ability. Every body can dance. Whether you’re in a wheelchair, have a broken arm, or cannot do turns due to a head injury; if dance is in your heart we will find a way.
  6. We practice inclusion in all of our classes, whether your struggle may be seen or unseen, you will not be turned away. We often have children diagnosed and undiagnosed with different illnesses they may struggle with. The more we know about your child, the better we can serve them. Please let us know if your child has been diagnosed or has symptoms of autism, add/adhd, club foot, down syndrome, or any other struggle they may have. We pledge to help them in any way we can. Often we will hire an additional assistant teacher if needed for that class.
  7. We know that having diverse classes has amazing benefits for all of our students. They become kind, compassionate, patient, hard working, and caring dancers who are willing and welcoming to working with everyone. Those are the qualities that make a dancer into a wonderful dancer who is a joy to work with. Although many of our dancers may not choose to dance professionally, those that do find it an easy transition because working in the industry means working with a diverse group of performers.

We also ask that all of our dance families welcome all of their dance friends regardless of their abilities, struggles, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identification, physical, or mental ability. We ask that you see the value is having a diverse and committed dance family. When we come together united in our passion for dance, we can do amazing things.

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