Vision In Motion (VIM): Youth Empowerment through Dance

The Problem

In this community an increasing number of people lead sedentary lifestyles and rates of obesity are rising. The need to improve levels of physical activity and develop healthier lifestyles has never been more pressing. If people are to make positive decisions about improving their health and well-being, they need to be able to choose from a range of suitable options. As the fastest growing of all the art forms, dancing can have a powerful effect on people’s lives—physical, emotional, mental, and social benefits. Efforts to improve health and well-being need to reach everyone in our society. Anyone can dance and enjoy dancing – young or old, physically disabled or non-physically disabled. The vibrant range of styles drawn from different cultures gives dance an impressive reach in our multicultural society. Dance and music-therapy also has a long history of successfully working with hard to reach groups and building a sense of social cohesion within communities. Dance is a wonderful artistic outlet that not only utilizes creativity and talent but also teaches discipline and builds character and self-esteem in a positive and productive learning environment. In his book Life and Def, Russell Simmons, an American entrepreneur and activist, defined Hip Hop as a “modern mainstream young urban American culture,” developed by African Americans in the 1970s. It communicates “aspiration and frustration, community and aggression, creativity and street reality, style and substance” (Simmons & George, 2001). New Orleans continues to have underrepresented, underserved populations (mostly African Americans) who have limited access, utilization, and quality of care, while suffering with poor health status’, health outcomes, and environmental concerns. At the same time, New Orleans also offers a melting pot of diverse cultures and music that is essential to its well-being. Many teens and young adults are facing an array of issues and pressure, such as sex, drugs, violence, psychosocial problems, financial constraints, and education. The Hip Hop Dance program will improve health and well-being in at-risk/high-risk, overweight, and obese adolescents/young adults (ages 17-22) through an intervention that develops and maintains positive decisions. The primary aim is to improve the quality of life and physical, mental, and social well-being through Hip Hop dancing in adolescents and young adults in the Greater New Orleans Metro area. The intervention will be delivered by an instructor who will teach hip hop dancing to at-risk/high-risk, overweight, and obese adolescents and young adults (aged 17-22). However, the classes may also include individuals who do not fit those categories but have an interest in dance itself. Hip Hop is a vibrant and multi-faceted art form encompassing the many disciplines of contemporary cultural and artistic expression. Unlike most other forms of dance, which are often at least moderately structured, hip hop dance has few (if any) limitations on positions or steps. The classes will be offered throughout the week, suitable for beginners, intermediate, advanced, and open class level. 1. Introductory level - Geared to people who have never taken dance; learn the basics here; steps are taught and broken down for students. 2. Beginner and Intermediate level – Most basic class; geared to people with very little dance background. People with no background may still take this class. Intermediates will take the class at a slightly faster pace, picking up some new moves and terminology. It is assumed that the student has mastered the basic steps, turns, etc. 3. Advanced level – Warm-ups longer, more technical, strenuous: combinations longer, taught more quickly, emphasizing perfecting all moves and stylization to more syncopated or subtle rhythms, so students learn to pick-up more quickly for use in auditions and professional work.

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