- We are a dance school who provides afterschool programming for children ages 2-12 for our Hamilton South community. We also offer in school/centre programming. We teach dance through play-to-learn skill development, encourage creativity (dance making), and provide high quality opportunities for performance for children from any age, experience, or ability. We aim to make our classes as accessible to all, as we see dance education as a must-have tool for total development of the child.
- Through personal experience learning and teaching in the dance sector, as well as through academic research, the director of ConnectEd had identified the need for dance classes that are more accessible to all tamariki. Accessibility barriers that exist in dance are cost barriers (fees, uniform, travel and time), skill/experience barriers, and barriers for participation with special/learning needs. Dance programmes are often exam based with formal training the goal, which are expensive to offer and participate in. There are often added uniform costs on top of tuition and hefty performance fees in order to participate. There are also challenges for students who start "late" or who have learning/physical challenges to enter dance classes and thrive amongst more experienced peers, leading to notions of “it’s too late, why start now” or disengagement. While these barriers exist everywhere, a solution was particularly needed in our Hamilton South area, as there were no other dance programmes operating and our area is a diverse cultural and socio-economic community who would benefit from a high quality and accessible (close by, affordable, inclusive) environment.
In the last 12 months we have continued to offer and develop our dance programming to better address the barriers to participation in dance. Things we have implemented or fine tuned include:
- Attempted to keep fees as low as possible and provided MORE scholarships for students in financial need thanks to Tu Manawa funding from Sport Waikato. Our amazing dance whanau also generously donate at showcase performances in lieu of ticket sales towards our scholarship fund. We have funded 19 students (2 terms each) who wouldn't have been able to start/continue dancing without financial assistance.
- We offer payment plans.
- We do not require a specific uniform. Appropriate dancewere and shoes are required but these are no specific colour, brand, style. We provide a collection of used dancewear that is donated by dance whanau when items are outgrown. These are either sold very affordably or lent via scholarship to students who need them, with proceeds to our scholarship fund.
- We welcome students of all ages (children), experience, ability and background to our programme. We created a new skill card system at the end of 2022 that provides a skill progression record for each student individually at their own pace. New students are able to integrate into their own age group and work with peers without the pressure of meeting level/exam requirements for progression on the typical year to year schedule (which not all students want or could meet). This skill assessment system has been a game changer!
- We believe that our dance instruction (the physical how to of movement) stands for acessibility and inclusion because we believe every child should and can dance. They 'should' dance because it's a marvelous way to stay fit, learn how to control their body, builds their brain through coordination, and strengthens social emotional skills. They 'can' dance, because dance is innate in all children, who are expressive movers with so much artistry and creativity to contribute. No matter their past experience or physical or cognitive ability, all children deserve to have a place at the table and we work hard to ensure that table is as wonderful as it can be; with their peers, with high expectations for all students while still allowing for achieving physical goals at their own pace. We teach movement through a Play-to-learn model where we explore and use the elements of dance to understand our movement and apply this to learning new skills in fun and creative ways. We then perform our learning often, demonstrating to our children and whanau that everyone has what it takes to achieve great things, and wow do they rise to the occasion. This creates a space where all children can enjoy learning movement, feel like they can achieve it, and that values their artistry in ways that ensure they always feel like they are contributing something even when steps get hard. Students and whanau feel like they belong and are capable to achieve, and they want to be here!
Feedback from whanau and strong year to year retention is evidence that we are providing a welcoming and inclusive experience and that children and whanau are feeling belonging and interest to continue learning, creating, and performing with us.
Children of all ages (2-12), stages of experience, ability dance with us. We also have students with neurodiversity, physical and cognitive disability, ESOL who have found a positive experience over a long period of time here with us, fully integrated with their peers.
We have offered 19 scholarships to students (part or full) enabling participation to those with need. We have supported several students with dancewear/shoes via the donated dancewear collection which is much appreciated by whanau.
We keep fees as low as possible, inlcluding access to showcases (free tickets) and low showcase fees (aided by funding sought and granted). This event is beloved by our community and gratitude is always shared with us about how enjoyable it is for all whanau to be included so effortlessly in their child's experience.
Our skill assessment and feedback system has developed over the last year to include opportunities to share achievement with children and their whanau. This demonstrates to whanau that their students are cared for and considered on an individual level, and that their personal journey matters. As teachers we enjoy challenging our students and then following up to ensure success. We get whanau involved when we share what was achieved and set goals as a team for completing those extra tricky skills.
We see happy children gaining skills in a non-threatening way, sharing them with confidence, and see friendships and team work occur in class and in performance. We see high retention from term to term showing they enjoy dancing.
We have heard and read feedback from parents/whanau that they feel the programme is accessible and inclusive.
"The accessibility and inclusion focus has been felt deeply by us as a family new to dancing. The teachers have made such an effort to be collaborative and scaffold for success in the weekly lessons which has lead to amazing enjoyment of top notch performances. My children would not have had this experience otherwise. This has been a wonderful opportunity and we look forward to their growth on many levels."
"The scholarship opportunity has been amazing to allow my two girls to continue to come to dance class during a difficult financial time. ConnectEd Dance Co makes everyone feel welcome and included!"
"ConnectEd Dance has dance teachers who have committed to learning about neurodiversity and caring for students with special needs- my daughters autism/adhd has not been an issue in this safe, inclusive, kind and celebratory space. "
"It's such a great idea to have a collection of good used dance clothing and footwear for purchase at such a reasonable price. It meant (student) was able to have the correct attire for her ballet classes at short notice. This also meant she could feel like she belonged in the class..."
- Hamilton City
- Commitment to Accessibility & Inclusion