Education Through Dance

The Hispanic culture represents North America’s largest and fastest growing ethnic group. The Latin Ballet seeks to expose students of all backgrounds to this rich cultural and artistic heritage, in a format that is designed to build self-confidence though physical and mental challenges. Simultaneously, the Latin Ballet’s educational programs strive to help students new to the United States move comfortably into their new setting by improving their language and communication skills. 

Be Proud of Yourself demonstrates the importance of including the arts in the public school curriculum. A 1998 study conducted by The Arts Education Partnership and The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities called Champions of Change, has proven the “arts have shown links to student motivation and engagement in school, attitudes that contribute to academic achievement.” Results from the study confirm that children involved in the arts are simply doing better in school. It also found that the arts create a link between children and their community. Most importantly, dance embraces life. 

Be Proud of Yourself is tailored to the specific needs of the school, program or students with which it is associated. In most cases the Be Proud of Yourself residency culminates in a performance in which the students showcase what they have learned for the entire school and a general audience. This component impacts both the students and the community as it creates an environment of sharing culture with the community and imparting the knowledge obtained to a larger audience. Each element of the Be Proud of Yourself program is described in detail below: 
Spanish Through Dance concentrates on the practical use of Spanish in relationship to the body, to movement and to music. The way the names of certain steps or dances such as cha cha cha actually sound like they look or how the dances are reflective of the nuances of the language itself will be emphasized. Classes will be focused towards Spanish colonization of South America and its affect on music and dance – how the blending of cultures has not only shaped the performing arts but, has given birth to new forms of expression. Examples of activities: 
– Students earn to pronounce words, sing songs, learn traditional and social Latin American and Caribbean dances, therefore connecting dance to language, culture and history. 
– Teachers create a thematic lesson for the class based on the sessions from the Latin Ballet. 

Dance as Therapy program introduces children with a variety of special needs to the joy of movement and the cultures of Spain and Latin America. The groups served by this program may include children facing physical challenges such as Cerebral Palsy or Rhett’s Syndrome, or cognitive/emotional challenges including Autism, ADD/ADHD, learning delays, or Mental Retardation. Often, children facing these challenges experience low self-esteem and self-worth. The Dance as Therapy program develops imagination, memory, social skills, positive body image, and problem solving while building confidence and promoting self- respect through artistic expression. Example of activities: 
– Students are exposed to live drumming and dances of Caribbean and Latin music, which will encourage students to feel rhythms and understand basic dance movements and directions. Rhythm provides bio-feedback helping the child experience increased sensory organization, attention, and focus. 

English as a Second Language through Dance (ESL) program eases the transition for students who have immigrated to the United States and are not necessarily proficient in English or comfortable in their new surroundings. Students connect dance to language, culture and history, while improving their ability to understand and appreciate their new environment and move comfortably into their educational setting as a whole. Examples of activities: 
– Students research the history and countries of the dances studied. The result then be developed into lessons by teachers. This hands-on involvement by the students enhances their understanding of the English language through vocabulary development, writing exercises and reading assignments.
– Students learn to pronounce words, sing songs, perform traditional and social American dances, such as swing, hip hop and modern dance and Latin American and Caribbean dances, such as Salsa, Merengue, and Capoeira. 
– Students use computers to research the dances and their countries of origin, to compose documents, to store information and to prepare presentations. 

EveryBody Reads! program is designed to supplement all of the above programs. Through music and movements, relationships are made to language and vocalizations, which reinforce pre-literacy and literacy skills. Examples of activities: 
– Students learn La Piñata, a party dance that is done at a Latin American birthday celebration. The dance includes clapping rhythms, chanting, and repetition of sounds and alliterations which accompany specific movements. 
– Students are invited to pantomime stories when read aloud by an instructor or another student. 

Arts Education Summer Day Camp: As a continuation of the Be Proud of Yourself program at the schools the Latin Ballet has created the intensive BPY Arts Education Summer Day Camp at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, to provide the opportunity for children who participated during the school year to be able to continue their development in arts-education. This program is open to anyone ages 5 to 13 but the Latin Ballet of Virginia also offers scholarships for children with special and financial needs. The camp, which is three sessions of two weeks each, includes classes such as drums and percussion, arts and crafts, dance history, storytelling, dance-theater, Latin ballet, Spanish language through dance, Hip Hop, Latin and Spanish dances such as salsa, merengue and flamenco. The final performance of each session is based on the interpretation and studies of authentic Latin American legends. The Latin Ballet’s Educational Program Director collaborates with the instructors to make sure that the curriculum for the camp complies with the Virginia Standards of Learning for the Arts (S.O.L.’s).

Specific expected returns of Be Proud of Yourself as follows

ESL, Spanish Through Dance, and Arts Education Day Camps: 
– The students’ physical capabilities and self-assurance, and sense of pride increase notably
– Students gain a better comprehension of the English/Spanish language. 
– The students’ academic competence, multi-cultural awareness, and complete educational experience are notably enhanced once a long term residency (10 weeks) is completed. 
– Students gain an awareness of Latin American history, roots and culture since the latest census findings report the Hispanic population is the largest growing ethnic group in the USA. 

Dance as Therapy: 
– Students improve their imagination, memory, social skills, positive body image, and problem solving while building confidence and promoting self- respect through artistic expression. 
– Participants increase their sensory organization, attention, and focus, through music and movements, relationships that are made to language and vocalizations.

Organizational Capacity

The Be Proud of Yourself project relates to our mission by preserving and promoting the Latin American and Spanish cultures through educational programs as well as teaching to diverse audiences. It is one of the most important methods for the organization to reach our mission. It enhances curriculum and is tailored to various learning styles. The Be Proud of Yourself program is built to be further sustained and developed even after the Latin Ballet instructors have completed the residency. The key staff includes Artistic & Educational Programs Director, Ana Ines King and Director of Operations Ana Patricia Nuckols. All of the staff has either Master or Bachelors Degrees in Dance or equivalent professional experience. Ms. King has received numerous awards for her teaching and choreography including the Jane Baskerville Award for the best community education program for World Languages in Chesterfield County and the 2002 Hispanic Woman of the Year for services to the community, by AT&T Broadband, Virginia & CNN en Español. Tara Z. Mullins received The 2003 ARTSWork Award for Arts Education Research, and was invited to present research to the National Dance Education Organization Annual Conference. Ms. Mullins also served on the committee that wrote the Virginia State Standards of Learning for Dance, which were approved and implemented by the state government. Finally, the company will be featured in an upcoming issue of Southern Living Magazine as well as a national PBS special.


The Latin Ballet of Virginia residency program is evaluated through the following: 
– By gathering video data and participant response data. Video recordings are made in the first week of sessions and in the last week of sessions. Content analysis of video measures participants’ emotional and physical participation, understanding of the English language, pronunciation, and overall confidence. 
– School system staff, parents, audience and participants aged 10 and older complete a brief survey inviting them to respond on aspects of the program including: likes, dislikes, relationship with Latin Ballet of Virginia artists, and most importantly, personal growth. 
– Students’ academic achievement is evaluated by classroom teachers and Latin Ballet of Virginia artists for increased understanding of the material. 
– The final performance is used as an opportunity for students to share their newly acquired dance skills, improved comprehension of the English language and overall confidence with their families and community. We have an evaluation committee who analyzes video clips, survey responses, and teacher and artist evaluations of student progress Latin Ballet of Virginia and evaluates the success of the Be Proud of Yourself Program. These evaluations are presented to the teaching artists in order to improve future programs. Documentation of lesson plans, resource lists, videotapes and photographs are available for future use and evaluation by the instructors and interested educators, schools, artists and art organizations. Sponsors and supporters are invited to observe workshops and presentations and they receive final evaluation reports. 


The Latin Ballet has collaborated with many organizations since 2000. Presently, the company continues to collaborate with Ban Caribe Ensemble, the resident musicians for the Latin Ballet of Virginia. Ban Caribe plays for many of our productions and accompanies us on tour and in the classroom with our BPY program. The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is the home of the Latin Ballet. We collaborated with them on festivals and galas as well as hold our classes and productions in their facilities. We have a strong partnership with Henrico, Hanover, Richmond, Hopewell and Chesterfield County Schools and return each year to many of the schools to implement the BPY program. We also implement the BPY program in other schools such as the Dooley School and Flagler Home of St. Joseph’s Villa and Richmond HeadStart. Finally, we collaborate with such colleges as Virginia Commonwealth University, J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College, John Tyler Community College, Longwood University and Radford University.