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Behind the Curtain Blog

NDEO's "Behind the Curtain" Blog features articles written by NDEO members about dance and dance education topics as well as periodic updates on NDEO programs and services. This is a FREE resource available to ALL.

27Feb

How NHSDA Chapters are Making a Difference in their Communities

NDEO and NHSDA Celebrate Dance A Difference Week, March 3-9, 2024

When you think about honor societies, the first thing that might come to mind is student recognition: honor cords and induction ceremonies, mentions on resumés and framed certificates. Student recognition is indeed an important part of the mission of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA), a program of the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO). Our mission goes beyond celebrating outstanding artistic merit, leadership, and academic achievement, however. NHSDA is committed to fostering an appreciation for dance, as an art form and practice worthy of recognition and praise.

In 2017, NDEO instituted "NHSDA 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 will be held March 3-9 this year. We invite both individual participants and NHSDA Chapters to join us in celebrating through volunteerism, organizing or participating in a dance-based service project, or giving back to the community during Dance A Difference Week 2024. No registration, application, or paperwork is required - just get out there and use your passion for dance to help others!

Participating in Dance A Difference Week is a great way to help foster an appreciation for dance in your community, and help others see the value and potential of dance to bring about positive change. Hosting an event or participating in a service project can be a good way to raise awareness of your NHSDA Chapter and dance program. There are also many individual benefits for students who participate in Dance A Difference Week. Volunteering and dance based service projects can help students grow in empathy and compassion, leadership and social skills, self-esteem, and confidence.

There are 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. Not only are NHSDA Chapters actively involved in Dance A Difference week, but they also participate in service projects throughout the entire year.

In this blog post, you will hear from a few NHSDA Chapter Sponsors about the many ways that their Chapters have been active in their studios, schools, and communities. We are proud of their commitment to dance-based service! We hope that you will be inspired by their activities, and find opportunities to give back through dance during Dance A Difference Week and throughout the year!

A small group of young dancers take ballet class at an outdoor festival in black leotards and skits, with pink tights and ballet shoes

At Kailua Dance Academy in Hawaii (pictured left), NHSDA members volunteer at the school’s three performances, doing everything from helping with the younger kids, setting up dressing rooms, and laying the Marley floor. Chapter members volunteer weekly at the studio, and either as teaching assistants or with their own projects, such as creating social media content, cleaning the studios, and volunteering at community events. KDA is a regular at Windward fairs, markets, and school events, sharing our love and joy of dance with our community. Love Your Body Week and Dance A Difference Week have been huge successes at the studio, building community and pride in what they do. When the wildfires devastated Maui, the Chapter held a donation drive. The outpouring of support from dancers and non-dancers alike was incredibly heartwarming. - Kailua Dance Academy, HI. Carolyn Feher, Chapter Sponsor

The Core Academy NHSDA Chapter in North Carolina cut out leaves for a studio-wide thankful tree in November, organized a studio Spirit Week to celebrate the Super Bowl, and in February, cut out hearts for students at the studio to use to send a message to residents at a nursing home. - The Core Academy, NC. Chantal High-Santellano, Chapter Sponsor

At Grantsville High School in Utah, NHSDA Chapter members taught interested students an American Swing dance routine that was performed with the high school band at a home football game. Chapter members served in the community Halloween Carnival, and posed as iconic characters for photo ops with young children. They joined together with the Hope Squad to create mental health awareness videos featuring contemporary dance, during the “Share the Hope” campaign. - Grantsville High School, UT. Alexis Leonelli, Chapter Sponsor

NHSDA members at Percussion Discussion in Maryland took the lead in rehearsals preparing the company for eight gigs this season, including a sold out production in Washington, D.C. They taught repertoire to new members, created and led warm-up exercises, and served as dance captains. Outside of rehearsals, they volunteered for studio events, and helped create almost 200 homemade maracas so audiences can participate in making music with them. - Percussion Discussion, MD. Lisa Swenton-Eppard, Chapter Sponsor

A group of young students pose in front of a tour bus in the Bahamas.

At Today's Dance Center in New Jersey (pictured right), NHSDA chapter members participated in a Mission Trip to Nassau Bahamas. They spent a day visiting with the children of the Ranfurly Home, where they presented the home with a check for monies raised by running a Children's Doll/Dance Tea Party and selling Candy Grams. They also participated in a pizza and dance party with the children at the home. During a cultural exchange, Chapter members took classes at local studios, learned native folk dances, and then performed at BREEZE's Resort for the resort guests alongside a professional show. It was a wonderful experience and meaningful trip for all involved. - Today's Dance Center, NJ. Kim Sparks, Chapter Sponsor

Members of the chapter at Local Motion Project in Virginia were actively engaged in a series of enriching activities this year. They proudly participated in the Alexandria Scottish Parade, representing dance and our organization in this festive event. A highlight was their winter show, "In Wonderland," which showcased the incredible talent of dancers ranging from ages 7 to 71. Additionally, Chapter members enjoyed a field trip to the Kennedy Center, where they attended a performance of LaTasha Barnes' The Jazz Continuum. Overall, these were memorable experiences and meaningful connections for the chapter. They look forward to building on these moments and continuing to share their love for dance with the community. - Local Motion Project, VA. Sara Lavan, Chapter Sponsor

The NHSDA Chapter at High Definition Dance in New York has been excited to establish volunteer services, including a food drive at Christmas. In addition, Chapter members help at their holiday showcase and assist in classes for younger children. They are looking forward to adding more special events for their members! - High Definition Dance, NY. Amanda Allyne, Chapter Sponsor

Only in its second year of existence, NHSDA Chapter at Holmdel High School in New Jersey has been busy this year! The Chapter led the middle school dancers in Love Your Body Week activities, and assisted and danced in the Winter Dance Concert. They are currently in rehearsals to represent Holmdel High School at the countywide Teen Arts Festival in March, and are working to organize a trip to perform for a nursing home. - Holmdel High School, NJ . Shannon Mannuccia, Chapter Sponsor

At All That Dance in Washington, NHSDA chapter members are teaching offsite in three places, two for kids and a retirement community. They also created short dance-along videos for special education preschool classrooms. They participated in Love Your Body Week, with NHSDA members taking on much of the responsibility for the week’s activities. To pay for the theater rental for their Student Choreography Showcase, the Chapter held three fundraisers: a bake sale, a garage sale and a parents’ night out. They were also able to use these funds to bring in a guest teacher, Clif Simmons, for a Contemporary African class. They are looking forward to Dance a Difference Week, during which they will be crafting finger puppets for their local Children’s Hospital, holding a food drive, and hosting a teen community forum on intersectional feminism in dance. - All That Dance, WA. Mary Gorder, Chapter Sponsor

High school aged students pose in front of clothes/costumes they collected to be donated.

The Cox Mill High School Dance Program NHSDA Chapter in North Carolina (pictured left) has been working to build relationships throughout the school and community. This year the Chapter helped to run the annual Dance-A-Thon event, held technique sessions led by Cox Mill Advanced Dance students, and made motivational cards for students who are dancing in upcoming performances. - Cox Mill High School, NC. Lindsay Blackburne, Chapter Sponsor

The NHSDA Chapter at Xavier College Preparatory in Arizona has been creating work, performing and doing outreach in their community! The XCP Performance Dancers brought joy to residents at Morning Star Assisted Living in Phoenix AZ. The dancers and the residents had so much fun, as the students were able to dance with them a bit after the performance and interact! - Xavier College Preparatory, AZ. Mary Anne Herding, Chapter Sponsor

The Radiant Rams / Rho Alpha Mu chapter at MD Roberts Middle School of the Arts in Georgia hosted a winter show with a great turn out, and traveled to the State Farm Arena and Foxx Theater for performances, including a concert by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company. In February, students performed at Morehouse College for a Delta Phi Delta Dance Fraternity/Sorority Black Excellence Event to celebrate Black History Month. In April, some students will be in a fashion show with Tyler Perry's Costume Directors. - MD Roberts Middle School of the Arts, GA. Hannah Glenn, Chapter Sponsor

At Allegra Dance Greenwich in Connecticut, the NHSDA Chapter has been sharing their love of dance with the community. They participated in a Reindeer Fest performance in collaboration with a local garden nursery, and rang in the start of the holiday season with a tree lighting performance in town. They will take part in an International Night at a local middle school, and in April they will participate in a special fundraiser with a local radio station to support NICU and premature babies. - Allegra Dance Greenwich, CT. Carrie Page Normington, Chapter Sponsor

The NHSDA Chapter at Charleston County School of the Arts in South Carolina developed a mentorship program between high school and middle school students, including students from neighboring schools. They conducted an audition workshop for dancers interested in their school. They held a winter showcase that highlighted holidays and dances celebrated around the world, including Diwali and Bollywood dancing, Chinese New Year and ribbon dancing, Three Kings day and Latin dancing. - Charleston County School of the Arts, SC. Kristin Tillotson, Chapter Sponsor

Two high school aged dancers do a young girls hair and makeup.

Every year, the NHSDA Chapter at Spotlight Dance Works in Michigan (pictured right) holds an event called "Buns for a Cause" where older and more experienced dancers do recital hair and makeup for the younger dancers, for a small fee. All proceeds then go to benefit a local charity. The dancers and families love it! - Spotlight Dance Works, MI. Shelby Bensinger, Chapter Sponsor

At Lyndon Institute in Vermont, NHSDA Chapter members have choreographed for Pep Assembly at school, created dance lessons for after school programs, taught at summer dance camps, prepared community movement workshops for all ages at St. Johnsbury Sparkles - a winter festivities weekend, and participated in Love Your Body Week. They plan to teach dance for general academics - integrate latin dance in Spanish classes, teach general classroom teachers how to provide brain breaks, etc. They also plan to participate in Dance A Difference Week and do something around advocacy for school administration, and governmental legislators and representatives. - Lyndon Institute, VT. Rebecca McGregor, Chapter Sponsor

Is your NHSDA Chapter participating in Dance a Difference Week 2024? 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. 

Learn more about Dance a Difference Week Here.

Photo credits (from top to bottom): Lindsay Blackburne, Carolyn Feher, Kim Sparks, Shelby Bensinger

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