A vibrantly illustrated and inclusive celebration of dance in all its styles, moods and meanings.
While watching Austin Winsberg’s dramedy series Zoey, I was struck by the power of the dance sequences to convey feelings as complex as anger, fear, sadness, and joy. The show’s dance numbers often involve dozens of people in glamorous locations, but many of them, like the solo and duet dances that take place in living rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, reveal the ways that we turn to music and dance to express ourselves in everyday life.
Dance has the potential to bring people together, and it can provide a way to connect with others, improve mental health and boost self-esteem, according to studies on dance psychology. These findings support the philosophy behind Dance for Joy, a program created by two teenaged students at Babylonian Jewish Center in Great Neck, New York.
Last year, the high school girls created a program to teach free dance lessons to children and adults with varying abilities. They publicized their effort at the local community center, reached out to schools and recruited volunteers to assist in classes and administrative duties. They’ve also taken on community service projects, ranging from food drives for seniors to winter coat collections for the homeless.
In addition to offering free classes, Dance for Joy provides costumes and supplies. Many parents struggle to afford the hundreds of dollars in tights and leotards required for dancing, particularly if they have multiple children. Some have travelled long distances to participate, and a parent of one child, Fatima Machuca, emigrated from Honduras to give her daughter a better future, and credits Dance for Joy with enriching her family’s life.
Rachel Balaban, who teaches the program, says Dance for PD has taught her more than just how to move. She’s seen it help participants reconnect with their bodies and feel a sense of accomplishment. She remembers a 94-year-old man who came to class every week until his death, even as his mobility diminished.
Tori Pisaneschi began dancing at the age of 3 and has studied Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Pointe, Modern and Hip Hop. She received her BFA in Dance at Temple University, where she focused on performance quality and dance science and also trained with doctorate professionals such as Kun-Yang Lin, Laura Katz-Rizzo, Karen Bond and yonTande Whitney V. Hunter. In addition to teaching at JDA, she is a certified 305 Fitness instructor and co-owns and directs Joy Dance Academy with her business partner Midori. She is overjoyed to be a part of the team at JDA and looks forward to seeing your dancers grow!