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.



Holiday Nutrition Survival Guide! By Shantha M. Wilson, R.D.

Dance of all types is a great way to stay in shape during the holiday season.  But don’t forget the power of intelligent food choices as you navigate your way through holiday parties and family get-togethers that often revolve around food.  Here are some tips to keep you lean through all the festivities!

  1. Before attending a dinner party, eat a small breakfast and lunch with protein so you aren’t starving. This will help you avoid overeating at dinner.
  2. Emphasize lean meats like fish or grilled chicken breast.
  3. Fill up on fruits and vegetables. Try not to think of any foods as “forbidden”. Be sure to get the servings of fruits and vegetables you need first, then you can include a snack or dessert.
  4. Limit calories from treats and goodies to 10% of your daily intake. If you eat 2,000 calories per day, then you can have 200 of those calories from an “empty” source such as crackers or dessert.
  5. When eating out, order dressing and sauces on the side and limit yourself to one item from the bread basket! Consider splitting an entrée with someone or eat only half.  You’ll have another meal ready later!
  6. Instead of indulging in daily sweets, limit desserts and sweets to special occasions and parties. Eat 1/2 what you normally would.  If several choices tempt you, try a bite or two of 2-3 selections.
  7. Instead of running through a drive-thru for fast food which is high in fat and calories, but low in nutrients, eat healthy dinners at home that you can prepare in advance on the weekend or with a crockpot. A little meal planning each week goes a long way!
  8. Soups made from vegetables, whole grains and/or lean meats or beans without cream or half and half (unless fat-free) are excellent choices in the fall and winter. Not only are they high in nutrition, the volume makes you feel full faster so you eat less!
  9. Try whole wheat bread and brown rice instead of white bread, white rice, etc.
  10. For breakfast eat oatmeal, whole wheat toast, ½ whole wheat bagel, yogurt, and or fruit instead of pastries and lattes made with sugar-laden syrups and whole milk. Eggs are an excellent protein source or a smoothie made with protein powder or Greek yogurt.
  11. Avoid seconds during holiday meals and parties. Control your portion sizes and eat ½ what you normally would of calorie-laden items such as gravy, mashed potatoes, rolls, and dessert.  Double up on vegetables, salad, and fruit if you are still hungry!
  12. Substitute lighter items for the real thing. Instead of sour cream, use fat-free sour cream or plain yogurt.  Instead of oil when baking those holiday goodies, use applesauce.
  13. Instead of having a beverage such as soda or alcohol full of empty calories, drink water or a non-calorie beverage and use those calories to indulge in a small treat-but have ½ your normal amount!

Let me illustrate the power of making smarter food choices in one client’s day.  I will call her Jane.  By making a few substitutions in one day, was shocked when she found out she had an excess of almost 2000 calories! Here is one of the five changes she made.  This is just one day!

Fat-free or viniagrette dressing vs. regular dressing:                                      -200 calories

Remember, 3500 extra calories result in a weight gain of one pound.  There is power in making smart food choices.  By doing so, you can stay lean and fit all year!  Feel free to contact me for private nutrition consultations or a nutrition master class for your organization at the email below. Have a safe and healthy holiday season!

Shantha M. Wilson, R.D. received a B.S. in Clinical Dietetics from Brigham Young University.  She has worked as a dietary director for MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASunrise Healthcare Corporation.  She is a member of the American Dietetic Association and is in private practice.   She resides in Arizona with her husband and three children and works as a freelance contributing editor.  Shantha can be reached at shanthawilson@cptg.com.  This content is copyrighted and used by National Dance Week with permission.
Guest, Health/Nutrition

A Time for Thanks

This is a time a year everyone begins to reflect on friends and family.  A time of sharing our changes and comforts along with seeing some of our favorite smiling faces.  That is how it is for me with the friends who participate in and attend the UDMA shows each October in

UDMA 2015

UDMA 2015

Atlanta, NJ and Chicago.  For many including myself it is a time of up building when vendors, dance teachers and studio owners alike get the opportunity to share their stories and experiences with each other.

Of course the highlight for me is to touch base with all those who have taken their time and energy to support NDWF and its many programs.  I want to especially thank those who were the motivating forces and inspiring their students to take the lead in our anti-bullying Kick for Kindness campaign and to take a stand, by wearing the red bracelets, signing our posters and creating videos.  Bullying is so widespread today and effects so many it is important to take the lead against it and I am proud to say many dancers have.

National Dance Week for 2016 will be April 22-May 1st and many are already making plans.  Many of last year’s ambassadors are signing up again and getting busy.  It was so much fun to see all the dance mob videos from 2015 and I was touched by all the essays and posters from our younger dancers.  This year in 2016 we will even have Princess Plie

Princess Plie'

Princess Plie’

choreographing a special dance mob for preschoolers.

A special thanks to those who worked tirelessly in our National Dance Week Foundation’s booths – Catherine Chu, Mary Dressendofer,  Nicole Tidermann and one of our board members Donna Mueller along with her staff.  I look forward to seeing all of you next year along with meeting some new friends in Boston.

Atlanta 2015

Atlanta 2015

Chicago 2015

Chicago 2015

Cathy Graziano

Executive Director