Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh

Dancing Classrooms Founding Director Pierre Dulaine engages the audience at the kickoff reception in Pittsburgh (© 2009 Archie Carpenter)

In the fall of 2009, the prevention program of  Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, brought the renowned Dancing Classrooms to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

We introduced the program to 300 children in six Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Since then, Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh has expanded to include schools in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. To date, more than 2,000 local children have benefitted.

Dancing Classrooms is about much more than dance. It’s an innovative strategy and approach that enhances learning readiness and social development, providing students with:

  • practice in problem solving, as children are challenged to overcome personal shyness and to learn intricate dance steps and participate in a variety of performance venues across diverse audiences;
  • development of creative thinking skills, as children develop discipline in approaching the “new,” and become comfortable that they can move from not knowing to knowing using their own imaginative and personal skills;
  • resiliency in facing challenges and the unknown, as children learn to improvise to correct for mistakes and come to better understand the importance of trial and error in improving performance;
  • training in professional courtesy and behavioral skills that enable children to move across and interact with various levels of society, including various workplace and educational settings;
  • appreciation for various cultural backgrounds of others and widened understanding of and support for cultural differences;
  • team building and cooperation, both of which are essential to successful workplace, educational, and social success; and
  • greater senses of self-efficacy and personal commitment to consistent effort and practice to reach a goal, qualities that are essential for anyone, but that are particularly essential for children in poverty who face far greater hurdles each day than most of us can imagine.

Teachers and principals at participating Pittsburgh schools have noted a decrease in behavior management problems, an increase in parental involvement, and positive impacts on academics, school climate, and in the way the students treat one another.

Here’s what Todd Van Horn, principal of Pittsburgh Spring Hill, has to say about Dancing Classrooms:

“I must admit I was very skeptical at the onset of the program.  I wasn’t sure how the kids would respond but between the music teacher and the classroom teachers, we had 100 percent buy-in.  Much of this had to do with the outstanding dance instructor, Mr. Terry Sweeney.  He built relationships with my kids in less than two visits.  I have been in the district for 22 years but have never seen or experienced anything quite like it.”

Parents also cite the program’s positive impact on their children.

“My son was always a gentleman; however, he’s really taking on gentleman-like qualities. Also he’s beginning to take school and his work more seriously. Thank you for what you’ve done to improve my son in more ways than one. God Bless.”

– Parent of Pittsburgh Phillips student

And the students love Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh.

“This program was like an inspiration to me.  It allowed me to express things that I would hold in.  It exceeded my expectations because I didn’t know we were going to learn all these dances from all over the world.”

– Chenelle, student, Allegheny Traditional Academy