Inspiration through dance
The University’s new mentoring program brings dance mentors to elementary schools
Second-year College student Rachel Zaragoza started with a vision. Combining her passions for teaching and dance, Zaragoza founded Project Inspire, a new organization on Grounds whose members hope to take a love of the arts, especially dance, to the greater Charlottesville community.
“I’m a dancer myself, and it really started out as more of an idea,” Zaragoza said. “My friends and I love teaching and we love working with kids, so we just wanted to utilize that.”
The organization has partnered with Venable Elementary School. Mentors visit the school on Tuesdays for an hour and are paired with students to practice their coaching skills and choreography.
“Right now I’ve been focusing on hip-hop just because that’s one of the easiest forms of dance to pick up,” Zaragoza said. “Once we get started, we’re hoping to start reaching out to other dance crews.”
The group has recently focused on recruiting mentors from University dance crews who want to sharpen their skills as choreographers.
“I know there are a lot of new dancers and they want to enhance their teaching skills,” Zaragoza said. “This program provides them with a good age group to help refine that. If they want to test out new choreography before bringing it to a dance crew or other dance groups, then they can do that with this as well.”
Zaragoza said she hopes members of Project Inspire can become role models for younger dancers.
“We also wanted to provide a new kind of mentorship program,” Zaragoza said. “Since it’s a dance mentorship program, we can instill values of leadership and high achievement with the local youth by giving them the creative outlet of dance.”
So far, she says, reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.
“[The kids] really liked it.” Zaragoza said. “They had a lot of energy and it was a lot of fun. They loved the dance and they were really excited to learn, and they’re excited to come back.”