Design Dance piloted its’ Entrepreneurship in the Arts program at Perspectives IIT Math and Science Academy in the Spring of 2016. Through a partnership with WeWork, Design Dance and Perspectives were able to offer a 12 week residency specializing in teaching 7th and 8th grade students small business skills, which students then implemented into the creation of a final performance involving original poetry and choreography for an audience of peers, faculty, family and community.
Over the course of the 12 week program, students met weekly with Mentors from the WeWork partnering businesses to learn branding, social media campaigning, marketing, costume and design, and budgeting
Students also met weekly with a Design Dance Teaching Artist to learn the fundamentals of choreography, and a Design Dance Spoken Word Poet Teaching Artist to source original poetry and creative writing.
While students built and rehearsed their dances they also divided up into committees that accomplished the business of putting together a professional dance performance.
Over the course of the residency, students saw a decrease in fighting, suspensions and detention as they funnelled their energies towards creative outlets.
Participants grew in self confidence and courage as they began to believe that not only would they have an audience for the performance but they had something meaningful and to say to their audience through performance.
Students directed their poems towards the themes of identity, race, and home.
In a school that, according to the Illinois Report Card, 98% of students are classified as low-income and only 16% are categorized as “Ready for College”, this program allowed students to design and implement their own project, enabling them to take ownership of their education. Design Dance plans to return to Perspectives in the 2016-2017 school year to run the program again with incoming 7th graders.
“I believe that our students were not used to having a structured creative outlet, as we did not provide them electives in the arts. The biggest obstacle was that our students did not have the confidence in themselves to believe that they could put together a performance. Design Dance did an amazing job of listening and collaborating with our students to provide them a unique experience. Through the Design Dance staff’s positive reinforcement of what skills our students brought to the table, the program came together in an amazing way. Our students’ commitment, confidence, and enthusiasm skyrocketed and culminated in a performance that they felt proud of”--LaKisha Hoffman, Arts Liaison and School Social Worker