Why I think dance for special needs students is so beneficial – by Skyler Cordrey

How I started volunteering – I started volunteering with my Mother though the National Charity League.   Once I found out that “Free 2 Be Me” needed volunteers to help out in their special needs dance class I knew I had to be a part of this wonderful program. I got really excited because it was a way to incorporate my passion for dance to help others.

Why I started – I started volunteering because I enjoy sharing the love I have for dance with others.  It takes a while for the students to warm up to new people but when they do you feel so much of the love and kindness that they have to offer.  So many Smiles, Hugs & High 5’s it is great!

Why I continue – I continue to volunteer because I love any form of dance.  While helping out I feel I am making a difference and I have become attached to all our students. I know each of their personalities and proud to call them my friends. You also don’t see very many dance classes for special need students. All the ballet and dance schools/programs that I have attended in the last 8 years did not offer these types of classes.   When I go off to college in a couple of years I would like to start a special needs dance class at whatever school I end up at.

Why I think dance for special needs students is so beneficial- Dance for Special need students is very beneficial because I have noticed that kids of special needs have difficulty expressing what they are feeling and I think dance gives them an opportunity to do so creatively. It is a way to learn their different personalities and connect with them.  If it were up to me every dance program would have a class for special needs students.   But, the bottom line is it makes them happy! It makes me happy to always see their smiling faces and positive outlook.  Each new class brings in the opportunity of meeting new friends.  It is a joy to watch everyone dance and express themselves.  During their “free dance time” (which is their favorite part of the class), they each express themselves with different movements.  Dance is also good for their self-confidence, coordination and body awareness.

Guest, NDW

My – “A Chance to Dance” by Claudine Ranieri – NDWF Ambassador

Well I just completed my Chance To Dance- Paramus events. It was an incredible event in my school district. As a proud ambassador I was able to service all the Special Education students in my district. I taught to two master classes at Ridge Ranch Elementary School and West Brook Middle School. As well one of the other Parkway Elementary hosted their own Dance A Thon… giving everyone a Chance To Dance.

The culminating evening event on April 27th “ Chance To Dance” was an enormous success with over 100 guests including faculty, friends and family supporting our Special Education and LEAP students at the high school. Students performed Latin ballroom dance the ‘Merengue” and group dance to “ Better When I’m Dancin’” by Megan Trainor. Here is a direct quote from one of our LEAP students which sums up the event-

“ Dance is a happy moment when I can touch the music.”- Scott Campbell LEAP Student Paramus High School

Here is what I wrote to thank my staff… Chance To Dance- Thank YOU !

“Just wanted to take a moment to thank you all for making “Chance To Dance” a true success here in Paramus at the High School, Ridge Ranch Elementary and West Brook Middle Schools, especially Mrs. Margaret Damiano and Mrs. Karen Peterson both who have supported this initiative from the beginning. This event couldn’t have happened without all your amazing support and giving dance a chance. The presence of so many faculty, friends and family last night was overwhelming. The joy, happiness and energy of all the students and guests dancing were palpable. As I stated last night , I am in awe the amazing team work here at Paramus , especially in the Special Education department and the sense of community and family you have with one another as well as how welcomed you make me feel . It is a privilege to work with each of you and especially all of the amazing teachers, aides and specialists who constantly nurture and care for each student as well as assist and join me on the dance floor. It couldn’t be possible without you.


Here is quote from one of our LEAP students that truly captured this event.

 “Dance is a happy moment when I can touch the music.”- Scott Campbell – LEAP- (Ms. Marlaina Postolakis Class)

 I look forward to continuing my mission of giving everyone a chance to dance so we may all touch the music. “

-Claudine Ranieri Dance Educator & Ambassador NDW

Everyone said they definitely want to do this again!!


Claudine Ranieri

Dance Educator

Paramus High School

Early Childhood & LEAP Dance Programs

Artistic Director of The Spartanettes



A Special Story about A Chance to Dance

Amaya’s love for dance began when a caregiver showed her some ballet dance positions:  pirouette, plie and arabesque.  She learned them (in her own style) and was excited to show anyone who asked for a demonstration.  At that time, I asked around about a dance class for children with special needs but no one was aware of any.  A couple years later I saw a reference to a dance recital on Gigi’s Playhouse website calendar.  I immediately called Miss Jen at Celebrations Dance Center and she welcomed Amaya to the class.

There are not many opportunities for physical activity for special needs children.  In Amaya’s case, she does not fit in well in classes or sports for typical children; it is too distressing for her.  The dance class at Celebrations is a nice opportunity for Amaya to get some exercise and have fun as well.  She enjoys meeting with her peers outside of school and has made friends in the class.

She feels like a beautiful ballerina when she puts on a dance costume and goes on stage in front of an audience and I am a proud parent when I watch her dance on stage.   We are so very thankful to Miss Jen and the dance buddies who volunteer their time to make this possible for us!

Kim Sgroi


Guest, Uncategorized

My Story Celebrating Children and the Art of Dance by Jennifer Gentile

I wanted to let you look in the windows of our studio at the beautiful dance family I come home to each night. Some have autism, one has Marfans, one has a disorder where her bones break easily, one has social anxiety disorder, one has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and this is my award winning competition team.Jennifer

Dance is their medicine. It brings us together. It gives us goals to reach and another place to feel safe and loved. It is a place where parents bring their children to build their self-esteem and to be accepted and to grow and learn. It is home💕

We had an amazing time  at the World Down Syndrome Day at Destiny USA. This event is held on 3:21 appropriately so reflecting that this is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21.Dancers supporting dancers

We have been “Celebrating” our dance relationship with GiGi Playhouse, a nationally recognized Down syndrome achievement center, for the past 5 years.

At Celebrations Dance Center we offer FREE dance classes to children with special needs. We have both integrated classes and a Dance Buddy class where we pair up our competition students with a child who benefits from 1:1 in a group environment.

We have performed at competition together and our annual holiday show and years end recital.
At World Down syndrome day we were invited to hold class in the Canyon at our local shopping mall, Destiny USA. At the end of our class I was able to teach the flash mob dance that we will be performing during National Dance Week.Jennifer Gentile and Gigi playhous

I choreographed my own version of the dance based on my experience in working this population. It was an amazing hit, upbeat, simple and really made you feel positive and accomplished. The two young women in the video I included that are upfront dancing with me both have Down syndrome as do many, many more in the crowd that joined us.
We have painted the letter G on our studio wall with a heart around it representing that we

Jennifer Gentile with G

Jennifer Gentile with G

are part of Generation G. We believe in each other, we have each other’s backs and we encourage forward growth for the special needs community.
Our dance shirts reflect our mission that Celebrations Dance Center is raising the “barre” for acceptance of special needs students in the dance community.
Celebrating Children and the Art of Dance,
Jenny Gentile /Owner/Dance Educator/Generation G


Dancing is something that anyone can do, so why not make it available to everyone?! – Special Stars story by Samantha Kuczun

Special Stars is a performing arts program, through Kathy’s Tumbleweed School of Dance, for individuals with special needs. We opened our doors in 2014 to ALL individuals with developmental and/or physical disabilities. We offer classes for children through adults. We want our students to explore new ways of expression, learn cooperation through group activities, and gain confidence while learning new skills. Our classes provide opportunities to spark creativity, gain an appreciation for the arts, and discover personal strengths, talents, and potentials. We also offer personal and individual attention to meet each person’s specific needs.

Special Stars Photo Collage

Special Stars Photo Collage

Special Stars Program was created to offer performing arts classes to ALL who wish to attend. It is not fair for individuals with special needs to be excluded from opportunities and we wanted to create a program that welcomed everyone. We are so excited to see National Dance Week taking an interest in this! Dancing is a wonderful way to express yourself and is great for exercise and physical fitness. Through dancing, we have seen so many individuals light up and gain confidence while improving their stability and everyday life. Dancing is something that anyone can do, so why not make it available to everyone?!


Countdown to National Dance Week

The sun is shining the days are getting warmer and flowers are blooming.  It can only mean one thing – National Dance Week is coming soon.  The year NDW will be April 22-May 1st with our new “A Chance to Dance” initiative.  Dance is such a wonderful outlet for Chance 3 - editso many with all its physical and emotional benefits that we really wanted to help create opportunities for everyone.  Many times children with special needs and learning differences not given the chance to join in and take a dance class.  The reasons are many – but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

“A Chance to Dance” is our way to help make that change. We have has teamed up with Rhythm Works Integrative Dance and the Wingman Program offering scholarship opportunities to teachers/instructors.  This will give them the tools and confidence to not only create classes but to integrate special needs students into their existing dance classes.

The funding for the scholarships is thru the NDW t shirt sales. A portion of the purchase price will go towards providing these educational scholarships for dance teachers to become certified Rhythm Works Integrative Dance Instructors and the Wingman Program.

Help NDWF and Show your support! The goal is to get as many as possible to organize a “wear the NDW t-shirt to class” day/week.  Reminding everyone that the funds raised by the purchase of the NDW t-shirt will go to a great cause to promote dance for all across the nation!

Get on board today – get your shirt and send us your pictures and videos helping us to create awareness and give everyone “A Chance To Dance”!

Dance Week on Shirt (1)

For more information or to order shirts – www.nationaldanceweek.org


Less Than 9 Weeks until National Dance Week!

Help us make it the best ever!

With less than 9 weeks until the start of National Dance Week, there’s still plenty of time to get involved in the many events and activities our Foundation has for 2016.  This year, we are excited to announce our “A Chance to Dance” campaign which was created to give an opportunity to children with special needs and learning differences to dance and to help raise money for educational scholarships for dance teachers and instructors.

Everyone in the dance community understands firsthand the many benefits of dance such as artistic expression, learning discipline and even physical conditioning.  It is our goal to help people of all ages despite any challenges to experience these same benefits. By purchasing a Dance Mob t-shirt for example, you are helping to create awareness and support this important initiative.

We have many ways for you to “celebrate dance and promote fun fitness” during NDW while promoting your school or group in your community.  Let us know your plans and we will add it to our Events calendar –  http://nationaldanceweek.org/events/

But for those of you who want to engage in this year’s NDW events, you have many choices:

  • Purchase the National Dance Week (NDW) event t-shirt.A portion of the purchase price will go towards providing the educational scholarships
  • Organize and participate in a Dance Mob
  • Write an essay for our Essay Contest
  • Design a poster for our Poster Contest
  • Pre-school Reading Program
  • Produce a dance performance of any kind
  • Present a lecture demonstration at a local school

These are all fun activities and include all ages.  The new Dance Mob choreography http://nationaldanceweek.org/dance-mob/main/ and to see the essay and poster topics and rules please visit: http://nationaldanceweek.org/ndw/essay-poster/

Thank you advance for your support and we can’t wait to see all the great pictures and videos of your National Dance Week celebrations as we get ever year!  It’s up to you to help us get your students, friends, family and community involved so they don’t “Miss A Chance to Dance!”


Moore Than Dance with their Special Stars class.

A Chance to Dance is an opportunity for all to get involved and help raise money for special needs dance educational programs.  So as we get make our preparations for National Dance Week – April 22 – May 1 2016 here is a heartwarming story.  #NDWChanceToDance

Click here for the story

Special Stars class from Moore Than Dance in MN

Special Stars class from Moore Than Dance in MN


Rhythm Works Integrative Dance teams up with National Dance Week and the Wingman Program! By Tricia Gomez

BREAKING NEWS!!! We are beyond excited to team up with the National Dance Week Foundation and the Wingman Program to raise awareness of the benefits of dance for all, especially those with special needs and learning differences!

Children with special needs and learning differences are often excluded from traditional dance and arts programs.  It’s our collective mission to provide the education and tools necessary for teachers, students, and parents to effectively facilitate inclusion, giving all the “Chance to Dance!”  Join us in helping to make it happen!  #NDWChanceToDance #IHelpedMakeItHappen


From April 22-May 1, 2016 get your students and community involved!  Here’s how YOU can help make it happen:

  1. Proof 3C blue editPurchase the National Dance Week (NDW) event t-shirt.  A portion of the purchase price will go towards providing educational scholarships for dance teachers to become certified Rhythm Works Integrative Dance Instructors.  In addition, a portion of the purchase price will be donated to the Wingman Program to provide qualified teachers with the Wingman Program guide, tools, and activities to empower their students to accept and include participants of all abilities!  Click here to order your NDW t-shirt!
  2. Show your support! Organize a “wear you NDW t-shirt to class” day/week.  Remind everyone that the funds raised by the purchase of the NDW t-shirt will go to great causes to promote dance for all across the nation!  Encourage your coworkers, family, friends, students, and community to do the same!
  3. Learn the Dance Mob routine! Organize and participate in NDW’s Dance Mob wearing your NDW t-shirt.  This year’s dance focuses on performance and including people of all abilities!  It’s simple and fun, so get everyone you know involved.  Click here to view the routine (coming soon)!
    Here are a few ideas:

    • Have your dancers learn the Dance Mob routine and enrich their community by teaching it to students at local special education schools, organizations, and non-public schools!  Be sure to get it on video to upload to the NDW website!
    • Perform your Dance Mob routine (wearing your NDW t-shirt) at local events, malls, preschools, assisted living centers, and sports games!  Be sure to get it on video to upload to the NDW website!
    • Get the whole family involved!  NDW is for everyone, not just trained dancers!  Teach the routine to your entire family and video your living room performance…wearing your NDW t-shirt of course!  Be sure to post these performances to the NDW website too!


NDWF logo transparentNational Dance Week was formed in 1981 when a group of dance-related organizations began a strong “grass roots” movement to bring greater recognition to dance. National Dance Week Foundation was established as a non-profit institution in 2011. Over the years, the organization’s dedication to its founding mission has inspired thousands of events during the ten-day annual celebration of National Dance Week in April, from gatherings in major cities to local showcases at small-town malls. These reflect the unique and creative abilities of the individuals and organizations who participate in an array of events, including the annual Dance Mob and annual Kick for Kindness Campaign, celebrating dance in unlimited ways throughout the year.  Learn more at http://www.nationaldanceweek.org.


PrintDylan’s Wings of Change is a foundation dedicated to the memory of Dylan Hockley, one of the first grade victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting on December 14th, 2012. The foundation is devoted to children with autism with programs to ensure their opportunity to develop to their maximum potential through sports, the arts and technology.  The Wingman Program empowers participants with leadership and courage to break down barriers, go above and beyond for others, and create acceptance and empathy through a series of activities and rewards.  Donations to the foundation ensure the program guide and rewards items are provided to dance programs free of charge!  Learn more at http://www.dylanswingsofchange.org/#!wingman/cwod.


RhythmWorksLogo-rgbRWID is based on the world-renowned Hip Hop Made Easy Program currently offered in over 2100 schools and studios worldwide!  Founded on the principles of sensory processing, kinesiology, and behavioral analysis, RWID has re-imagined purposeful dance and its use in achieving developmental goals for kids with special needs and individual learning differences.  Through intensive 2 and 3-day instructor certification workshops, Rhythm Works Integrative Dance Instructors are well equipped with the knowledge and awareness needed to effectively implement inclusive and specialized dance classes.  Learn more athttp://www.rhythmworksid.com.

Guest ,

Dancers supporting Dancers

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

It is heartwarming when we get an opportunity to see a community to unite together in support.  That is the case with Monica Kuechler  a long time dancer and dance teacher from Stirling NJ.  I have witnessed many times the dance community rise to the occasion when a need is made known as in this case.  Dance teachers impart many skills to their students to help them to achieve the best level of performance.  But a teachers impact on a student or parent’s life goes much deeper and can last a lifetime.  That can be seen in the support Monica received in her battle with melanoma. Unfortuately Monica did not win her battle.

But this story does not end there but with the continued support and contributions given to help assisting her family with mountain of bills.  That is the happy ending and the inspiration of the story.  Dance teachers share a part of them every time they walk into their classrooms.  This time it was the students, families and dance community that shared back.