Groove With Me, Inc. is a youth development organization using free dance classes and performance opportunities as a tool to instill in young women the leadership, pride, spirit of cooperation, creativity, joy and discipline needed to confront the adversity in their daily lives and throughout their future development. The program seeks to nurture youth, build self-confidence, offer positive choices, and provide a safe place to go.
Groove With Me began with a vision that a dance center could become a safe space where girls would discover their potential. In June, 1996 the organization’s founder Abigail McCreath launched her first class with two students at Loisaida, Inc., a community center on the Lower East Side. In that first year, Groove With Me grew to serve over 40 girls ages 7-14 with five classes per week and seven volunteer teachers. In February, 2001 Groove With Me opened its own studio in Spanish Harlem. In the first half hour of registration 200 girls poured through the door. This rapid growth clearly demonstrated the need for this girl-specific activity.
In August, 2002 Meredith Sherman, LMSW came on staff as Program Director. Through her efforts Groove With Me, Inc. is able to maintain 275 students, 37 classes a week and 40 volunteer teachers.
Groove With Me is driven by volunteers who donate at least one hour each week, 48 weeks out of the year.
Each level of dance classes at Groove With Me adheres to the New York State Art Standards for Dance. Students will not only be able to engage in the process of dance, but be knowledgeable about what they are doing and able to discuss their participation.
Beginner Movement for ages 4, 5, 6
Classes are offered in creative movement, hip hop, ballet and tap with a goal to increase gross motor skills. Classes are designed specifically for younger children who may not receive consistent structure and attention elsewhere. Most beginner classes include a time to sit in a circle and share what’s happening in their lives or to pass a book around to read aloud.
Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Nia, & Hip Hop for ages 7-12
The indicators for the New York State Art Standards for Dance intermediate level include: create dance phrases alone and/or in collaboration with others. Girls at all levels are put in groups to create choreography in counts of eight. This choreography is then often included in the class’ routine for upcoming performances.
On the first day of class the girls brainstorm their own rules, how they like to be treated, and how they think the teacher should be treated. Throughout their semesters at Groove With Me they continue to talk and think about their actions and the actions of others. They develop a sense of ownership over their surroundings and the world in which they live.
Groove With Me’s Teen Program
The Women’s Sports Foundation found that girls who engage in physical activity have lower risks for breast cancer, diabetes, teen pregnancy, drug use and a host of other health problems. 90% of teen violence occurs between the hours of 3pm and 6pm.
The teenagers at Groove With Me create a dance together, sometimes conveying contextual meaning. This is the commencement indicator for the NYS Art Standards. Creating a dance together maximizes the use of teamwork and cooperation skills and leaves young people with a respect for their creative process and the satisfaction of developing their own work.
Top: AB Swenson
Mid: AE Fletcher
Btm: AB Swenson
Teen Leadership Committee (TLC)
In 2008, a student intern from Columbia University School of Social Work conducted a programming needs assessment at Groove With Me. She found that the teens were concerned about their high schools' community service graduation requirements and wanted more opportunities to not only volunteer, but to develop peer relationships.
In Spring, 2009 the Teen Leadership Program began with 10 participants. That summer two of those girls were volunteering, assisting Master Dance Teachers with their classes. Brittany, age 16, writes about her experience as a volunteer Teaching Assistant, “I wanted to help be a part of the movement that Groove With Me portrays - a positive dance environment for girls. I think the girls look up to me as well as the other teachers. Learning their different talents is something I look forward to every week. Their eagerness, excitement, and motivation makes me pleased to teach. I am Proud to say I had a wonderful time volunteering at Groove With Me and would be honored to help teach again.”
Program Coordinator, Jamali Corniel leads and continuously develops the TLC. Currently, teens in the program are teaching 8 different dance classes under the mentorship of Master Teachers.