Hip-hop beat gets kids into the groove

If you think a nonprofit called Everybody Dance Now! is all about shaking your booty, you’d be right. But you’d also be wrong.

The New York non-profit teaches hip-hop and street-dance classes to young people across the country who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to the performing arts.

“But dance is not the goal,” says executive director Olakunle Oladehin. “The goal is reshaping what is the way to properly educate. Hip-hop dance culture can inspire and uplift. I think that’s really what we are doing.”

Oladehin and his colleagues say the loss of dance and music education in many public schools has been a tragedy.  “We have done a disservice becoming a test-focused educational system,” he says. The impact, he adds, is felt disproportionately among low-income populations and communities of color.

This New York non-profit teaches hip-hop and street-dance classes to young people across the country who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to the performing arts.

The programming from Oladehin’s organization includes professionally taught dance classes, dance-off competitions, and full-scale performances. It’s essentially the movie Step Up playing out in elementary and middle schools across the country.

If all this sounds like something a kid would love, that’s probably because it was started by one. Jackie Rotman was 14 when she launched the organization in 2005. She still serves on the board but is currently concentrating on getting master’s degrees from both the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Oladehin has always loved dance but didn’t discover hip hop until college. Up until that point he was planning to attend medical school, but he took a little time off and decided to enter public health. Then he heard about the opening at Everybody Dance Now! and thought the position was a perfect way to merge his personal and professional interests.

Winning at the Nashville Creator Awards will help with for organization-wide expansion. Everybody Dance Now! currently serves 3,500 students in New York, Portland, Houston, and other cities. Oladehin has four new cities “ready to go” to help make that expansion a reality.

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