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I see dance as a language. I want to inspire students to have the confidence to express themselves and to find their voice through movement.

I work with 750 elementary students at four different schools, which stretch from downtown LA to Sylmar in the North Valley. My students are not only dancers but choreographers, scholars, and critics. We are always improvising new movement possibilities, taking risks, and sharing our work. Our lessons are often aligned with what the students are learning in their academic classes. If they’re studying geometry, we’ll explore symmetry. If they’re studying engineering, we’ll use crates and blocks to build architecture for our dance. Some students start class with a rigid right/wrong mentality and a fear of taking creative risks. I see that as a by-product of a learning environment driven by mandated testing. My class is like therapy for overtested, overstressed kids.

Dance has a beautiful way of encouraging self-expression and creativity in all students. Children who may have trouble in the typical classroom setting can succeed in dance, and teachers can see struggling students in a different light when I tell them how brilliantly they are doing in my class.

I watch children come alive in my class, and I get frustrated that not all students have access to dance and other arts. There’s so much research on how access to the arts improves academic performance and lowers drop-out rates—yet some people think that dance class is a privilege. It’s not a privilege, it’s a right, and expanding dance and arts education in underserved communities is about social justice.

Peggy Nguyen
Dance Teacher


 

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