Dance can sometimes get a bad wrap in society. It can be considered frivolous and inconsequential, a nice hobby to have but nothing more. As dancers, though, we know that dance can be powerful! Dance offers physical, mental, and emotional benefits to individuals and can help build strong and supportive communities. Throughout history, dance has been used to bring people together, raise awareness of societal issues, and help support important causes.
NDEO and the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA) recognizes the power of dance to make an impact for both individuals and communities. In 2017, we instituted "Dance A Difference Week,” dedicated to dance-based service in our communities. Dance A Difference Week is held during the first full week in March, and is coming up this year from March 5-11, 2023. We invite both individual participants and NHSDA Chapters to join us in celebrating by organizing a dance-based service project or giving back to the community during Dance A Difference Week.
There are so many ways that students can give back and make a difference through dance! Each year we are amazed by the innovative service projects created by NHSDA chapters across the country. Here are a just few activities that your dance program can implement during Dance a Difference Week, or any time you want to make an impact:
1.) Host a donation drive. You can arrange for a collection of old dance costumes or gently used dancewear to donate to a charitable organization or students in need, non-perishable food for a local food bank, personal care items for a shelter, books for a classroom library, or toys for a children’s hospital.
Since 2019, the NHSDA chapter at the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School Center for Performing and Fine Arts has been collecting canned goods to donate to the local food bank. In total the chapter has donated 1037 lbs of food to the Chester County Food Bank. Students will be collecting again for this year’s Dance A Difference Week!
2.) Organize a movement class for teachers and staff at your school or studio. Plan a relaxing after-school stretch session or an energizing dance fitness class to help thank your teachers and staff for all that they do.
3.) Plan a community dance performance. Give a performance at a nursing home, hospital, adult day program, preschool, or senior center. This is a great way to practice for competitions or spring concerts while spreading some positivity in your community.
The Dance Dynamics Chapter of the NHSDA in Michigan is participating in Dance A Difference Week by performing at two Senior Living Communities in our area. These performances will wrap up our "Caring For The Community" tour. Our Chapter members have spent their Saturday afternoons in February performing for senior citizens in our community.
4.) Use social media to conduct a fundraiser. Choose a cause you care about or an organization in your community that can use support. Use social media to conduct a fundraiser by challenging others on social media to donate, or completing challenges each time you reach a fundraising milestone. For inspiration, check out American Ballet Theatre’s Gargouillade Challenge Fundraiser for Giving Tuesday on Instagram!
5.) Teach an open community dance class. Plan a day of open classes in different dance genres and for participants of different ages. Invite the community to attend classes free of charge. This can be both good marketing for your program and a nice way to give back.
For Dance A Difference Week, All That Dance in Washington hosts an improv jam open to all teens in their community. The event is free, but they collect nonperishable food and monetary donations at the door for North Helpline, a local food bank.
6.) Choreograph and share an awareness-raising dance. Create a dance about a cause that you care about or something that affects your community. Share your work on social media to spread awareness and inspire others to take action.
This year, members of the NHSDA chapters at Ballet Rincon Academy of Dance in Arizona are making a difference through dance by participating in an outreach event at the Children’s Museum of Tucson in honor of Rare Disease Day! Dancers from the chapter will be presenting a short dance work that celebrates diversity, and will be facilitating an adaptive dance class for all children.
7.) Take over your local park for a flash mob and clean-up. Choreograph and perform a flash mob style dance at a local park or public space that can use some TLC. Then, break out the trash bags and start cleaning up!. As a bonus, you can consider further beautification efforts like planting flowers or trees, fixing equipment, and painting. Remember to get any necessary permissions or permits.
8.) Get crafty. Craft projects can be a great team-building experience and a way to give back! You can make fleece-tie blankets for shelters or yarn rag dolls or simple stitch teddy bears for organizations that serve youth in foster care. Have fun making the craft projects together, and feel good knowing that they will benefit people in need.
For Dance a Difference Week, the NHSDA Chapter at All That Dance in Washington made finger puppets for Seattle Children’s Hospital. The finger puppets are used for young children when they have to have their blood drawn with a finger prick. Check out the cute puppets in the photo below!
9.) Share the benefits of dance through social media. As dancers, we know that dance has physical, mental, and emotional benefits. But not everyone has access to dance classes on a regular basis. You can share the benefits of dance by making video tutorials of easy and fun dance combinations to share on social media.
10.) Make and send cards to special members of your community. Have an informal photo shoot to capture some beautiful images of the dancers. It doesn’t need to be fancy - a camera phone would work! Use a free online platform like Canva to design cards using the photos. Write a nice message on the cards and send them to veterans, nursing home residents, first responders, or children’s hospital patients.
The NHSDA Chapter at Center Stage Academy in Missouri spent all of February hosting a supply drive benefiting Ronald McDonald House Charities and families. Both our NHSDA Junior and Secondary chapters decided to help out by hosting a snack sale in our lobby to raise money to purchase gas cards for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. They are also hosting a card making station for dancers and family members to stop by and decorate a note to lift spirits of families staying at the Ronald McDonald House!
11.) Celebrate community in your own program or studio. In addition to reaching out to others in your city or town, you can also celebrate the community in your own program or studio during Dance a Difference Week! Host a studio clean up or beautiful project, write thank you letters to studio staff, or host a team-building event for dancers of different ages and classes.
The NHSDA Chapter at Captivation Dance Affiliates’ in Nevada organized a “Secret Agent of Kindness” activity that will be celebrated throughout March. Each dancer at the studio is paired with another dancer, and will secretly conduct acts of kindness towards one another. This activity was designed as a way to embrace our shared humanity through actions of service.
12.) Partner with another organization. If organizing your own project feels overwhelming, you can consider connecting with another community organization to support their mission through dance. You can perform at one of their events, teach a dance class to their staff or constituents, participate in their fundraisers or donation drives, or use social media to raise awareness of their cause.
The NHSDA chapter at Frederick County Public Schools in Maryland sponsored a fundraising event called Athletes and Arabesques to raise money for a local non-profit that helps children get connected to extra-curricular activities. It paired a dancer and athlete from our high school in a Dancing with the Stars-like competition. The couples created their own routines and performed at an evening competition event. It was a huge success that not only raised money for a worthy cause but also brought together two sides of the school (the arts and athletics) who don't often see the value in each other's passion.
Is your NHSDA Chapter participating in Dance a Difference Week 2023? Let us know what you have planned in the comments! Don't forget to share your experience on social media. Use the hashtags #NHSDA and #DanceADifference to show us how you are serving in your community. We might even share your experience on our social media pages to inspire other chapters to join in and give back to their communities during Dance A Difference Week and throughout the year.