The Road to Peace Is Through Dance

Students of Lindblom Math and Science Academy were given the option of learning Swing, Steppin’, and Salsa during a “Dance Makers are Peace Makers workshop” held at Lindblom in late Septemeber. Their dance of choice, Steppin’, a well-known partner dance in the city of Chicago involves an easy to learn two-step.

As the rising vibrations of Beyoncé’s “Love on Top” permeated the space, students stood attentively with their eyes glued to instructor Chris Van Houten’s feet. Each holding steady grins of determination, they watched and investigated their reflections in the wall of mirrors ahead of them. Following each step and practice run with the music, the excitement and joy in the room rose with laughter and congratulatory high-fives as these dance makers became peacemakers.

In coming up with the theme of their workshop, the staff of “Dancing with Class” had one goal in mind: to make peace by spreading joy. Executive Director, Margot Toppen, said that they specifically chose partner dancing because of the organic human connection that comes with dancing. As an organization whose mission is “to energize schools and communities through the joys of dance” this summer’s workshop was created with the intention of bringing together people who may start out not knowing each other well, but find that their feet move in the same way. The workshop’s title and theme were also heavily incorporated, with leaders and followers transforming into peacemakers and joy makers.

After the students learned the dance in its entirety, Van Houten announced that each pair would be split, with one person being a peacemaker and the other a joy maker: “By using the labels peacemaker and joy maker, it’s reinforcing this idea that we can spread peace and joy through this activity.” With their new roles in place, and the music playing, the pairs took spins and glided across the floor, adding their twist to the original basic step. Students were then prompted to gather and make a circle, moving and rotating as one.

For the participants who may have started out simply as classmates, they ended as friends with a memory they will always share. The hope for Dancing With Class is that these students go on to share this experience with others as well. Whether it is the dance itself that they learned or just the experience, the goal is to continue to spread this joy long after the workshop has ended. Margot Toppen sees the impact of the workshop extending well beyond the time the students spend in the workshop, “Our vision of what we wanted to do, was really to create ambassadors throughout the city, through the students who participate. That they can experience the joy that dance brought them and encourage them to carry that forward.”

At the end of each workshop, participants were given a pin/button that held a QR code, which connects them to images and short videos of each workshop. In providing this code, it allows participants to relive the joy of their experience as well as share it directly with others.