Empower youth. empower communities.

giving the gift of dance

The only program of its kind, we are a dance outreach program teaching a movement-based curriculum to students in schools and community centers. We combine dance education, dance/movement therapy principles, and performance to encourage embodiment, resiliency, and a positive self-concept in Madison area youth. While doing this, we provide undergraduate dance majors with valuable teaching and community experience.

Through an innovative program, we use movement and dance to build confidence, competence, personal character, ability to contribute, sense of control, coping skills, and connection (Kenneth Ginsburg's 7 C's for Fostering Resilience). These tools empower our 4-16 year old youth participants, who are 90% children of color and 95% living in poverty.

Movement is an essential and enriching part of children’s lives. As Carla Hannaford wrote in her book Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All in Your Head, “movement activates the neural wiring throughout the body, making the whole body the instrument of learning.” Dance improves motor skills, decision-making, creativity, risk taking, cultural understanding, attentiveness, and self-awareness. Sadly, though, according to Any Given Child Madison’s 2014 report, 0% of K-6th graders, 3% of 7th graders and 5% of 8th graders in the Madison Metro School District were enrolled in a dance class taught by a specialist. We see each day how dance has the power to change lives and impact communities, and every child has the right to embodiment and creative expression. Through Performing Ourselves, we bring dance to participants who wouldn’t otherwise have a quality dance experience.

Through Performing Ourselves, skilled and trained dance instructors and our staff dance/movement therapist bring the gift of dance to community centers through weekly classes and area schools through dance residencies. To date, we have employed 29 undergraduate teachers, offering them professional experience in teaching, mentorship and community development, along with powerful, emotional connections with their students. Almost all of our alumni teachers are either teaching or practicing as dance/movement therapists all over the country.

In the words of Janessa, one of our dancers, I like that there's a big group of us and no one judges each other. It feels very opening. Normally, I don't like dancing in front of people because I feel like I'm going to be judged but at dance group I feel like it's a safe space and there's no judging.

Robyn Lending Halsten, long time dance advocate and dance/movement therapist in Madison, says of her experience with Performing Ourselves, Using movement and dance to connect children to their innate health and well being is one of the most powerful things we can do as a community to increase mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Performing Ourselves is not about performing, it is about creating community through movement and dance which is also connects people to their culture and community. The language of movement is universal and transmits things that are often hard to articulate.

We hope that during this season of giving, you’ll consider a gift to Performing Ourselves. The University of Wisconsin Foundation, our fiscal agent,  is a nonprofit, and 100% of your donations will go directly to supporting Performing Ourselves. In addition, your donation is tax-deductible, and you will receive a receipt form immediately following your donation processes.

At the heart of our program, we believe in the power of dance to change lives. We are so thankful for your investment in the arts and these youth, and for partnering with us to spread the gift of dance.

Our Supporters

PO training 2.jpg

Performing Ourselves was established with a three-year award from the Ira & Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). We are generously supported by the UW School of Education, the UW Dance Department, Education and Outreach Partnerships, and the UW Community Arts Collaboratory. 

Our 2018-19 programming is supported in part by American Girl Fund for Children, Dane Arts, Door Creek Church, Virginia Horne Henry, Evjue Foundation, Madison Arts Commission, a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts, Endres Manufacturing Co. Foundation, Madison 4 Kids, and many generous individuals.



PO photo 5.jpg

Our past donors include American Girl Fund for Children, Dane Arts, Evjue Foundation, Inc., the charitable arm of the Capital Times, Ira & Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, Joyce J. & Gerald A. Bartell Award in the Arts, Madison Arts Commission, Movemeant Foundation, Inc., UW Dance Department, UW School of Education's Virginia Horne Henry Fund for Women's Physical Education and Movement, Wisconsin Arts Board, and Wisconsin Center for Education Research.