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Creating Wingmen for Dance

In an era when kids mistakenly equate social medias ‘likes’ with actual friendships, a growing number of youth clubs and organizations are fighting back with activities aimed at developing empathy, compassion, and genuine forms of connectedness.

Once such initiative is Wingman for Dance, a national youth leadership program aimed at fostering real connection between dance students rather than, as is traditionally the case, that onus falling entirely on the instructor.

“As a dance teacher, I have noticed that the climate of youth culture has changed dramatically. There is a higher level of self-absorption,” says Jessica Michaels, program director for Wingman for Dance.

She adds: “Young girls in particular are obsessed with how many likes and comments they can get on social media. Wingman for Dance encourages them to think about others. It helps them realize we are all different, we are all unique, and that is not a bad thing.”

Since the program’s April 2016 launch, nearly 20 U.S. and Canadian dance studios have signed up for the $99 program, which includes a number of guides and support services aimed at creating empathy and connection between dancers.

One such activity is called Story Dance, which calls for groups of three to four dancers to draw three ’emotion’ words from a hat, then interpret those emotions through movement. The rest of the class attempts to decipher the emotions involved.

The Wingman for Dance program is part of the Wingman youth leadership program and sponsored by Dylan’s Wings of Change foundation, created by Ian and Nicole Hockley in honor of their son Dylan, one of 20 first-graders killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. As his parents put it, Dylan had autism and often depended on a network of peers to help him fit in and communicate – his ‘wingmen.’

Click here to learn more about the program.

Wingman for Dance from Jessica Michaels on Vimeo.


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