Dance As Empowerment: The Dance Enthusiast Asks The Dance Happy Project

Dance As Empowerment: The Dance Enthusiast Asks The Dance Happy Project
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Published on January 6, 2015

Empowering children with dance and extending this privilege to the homeless.

About The Dance Happy Project

Pictured above: Nikki Pena-Infande of Coby Project + The artwork that inspired her, "Habitat" by Sue Cretarolo


My name is Georgia Bernbaum, and I am eleven-years-old. The Dance Happy Project is how I plan to bring dance classes to more children, children who would not normally have access to dance lessons. The first place I would like to bring these classes is to the children living at the Center for Women and Families at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.

The dance classes will be taught by a professional dancer and educator, my teacher, Dario J. Moore. He has more than 15 years of experience teaching dance, and he is also the artistic director of The Center for Contemporary Dance (CCD), a non-profit arts organization. Each year, in addition to teaching at CCD, Mr. Dario teaches more than 1000 kids in Title I schools with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Personally, dance has made a huge difference in my life, giving me self-confidence when I practice a lot and finally get something right. I want more children to have the opportunity I have. The best thing about dance is that a person can do it anywhere, any time. All you need to dance is YOU, not paints, paper, clay, or anything else. I hope that the dance lessons will give the children confidence so that no matter where they are, they can feel powerful.

To raise money to fund my project, I will host a dance concert and art auction on February 9, 2015. I have written more than one hundred letters asking for art donations from well-respected artists of all kinds. I have written set and costume designers, fine artists, and children’s book illustrators. You will not believe the amazing donations I have received!  Please visit this website often and watch as the donations arrive. Then, join me in February for the chance to bid on these beautiful pieces!

Happy Dance Project

Q&A with Georgia Bernbaum and her mother Mrs. Elizabeth Bermbaum:


Sammi Lim for The Dance Enthusiast: Hey, Georgia! How long have you been a dancer and what kind of dance are you most enthusiastic about?

Georgia Bernbaum: I love Modern and Contemporary. I am performing in an African piece this weekend, and I am really enjoying it!

TDE: Hey, Mrs. Bernbaum. Are you a family of dancers or is Georgia the first toe-tapper among the Bernbaums? What inspired you to sign your daughter up for dance classes?

Elizabeth Bernbaum: Are we a family of dancers? Oh, gosh, no! I took ballet when I was younger. However, I was out the moment it was time to think about going on pointe. From that point until now, I am an ardent dance supporter and an appreciative member of the audience, not a dancer.

Georgia first took ballet and tap when she was between 4 and 5 years old. Those disciplines did not foster her love for dance so she played soccer and took gymnastics until she was 8. We had been watching So You Think You Can Dance, and she could barely sit in her seat when we watched the show so I suggested that she return to dance.

Georgia Bernbaum
Photo of Georgia Bernbaum © Lisbet Photography.

TDE: Georgia, what do you love most about your dance teacher(s)?

Georgia: Miss Jennia (Shanley) and Miss Dawn (Branch) are my main teachers, and I love their choreography. I love how they push me to be my best and notice when I get the moves right.

This summer, I took a class with Miss Emily (Scolaro), and she did the coolest thing. She took pictures of us in a lunge position she was teaching us. Then she showed the pictures to us and pointed out how we could improve our form.  After that, she took another picture of us so we could see the difference. That was really fun and helpful.

TDE: Elizabeth, assuming you chat with other dance moms, how has dance empowered your children? It’s wonderful that The Dance Happy Project will extend the same privileges to the children living at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.

Elizabeth: With dance, Georgia finally found her passion. We spent three years playing soccer, but the Pink Dragons literally did not win a single game.

I see that Georgia has developed so much coordination and grace in her movement. She may have the body of a dancer, but she has the muscles and the stamina of any athlete. My friends at the dance studio all discuss how their children have developed a strong sense of discipline through dance. I think that Georgia has found self-expression through dance more than anything.

Dawn Branch Works in rehearsal. + The artwork that inspired her,
Dawn Branch Works in rehearsal. + The artwork that inspired her, "First Dance" by
Amalya Nane Tumanian.

TDE: The Dance Happy Project has a big event coming up on its calendar, namely the dance concert and art auction on February 9th 2015. Could you tell me a little about the process of matching up dance companies and artwork?

Georgia: I have a website with all of the art, so I just asked each choreographer to choose whatever piece inspired them.

Elisabeth: We have the perfect partner in CCD. Because twelve of the fifteen contemporary dance companies in town were affiliated at some point in time, it was not difficult to get performers for the fundraiser. They were all eager to give back, so to speak.

TDE: This one’s for Georgia: Complete the following sentence to express your feelings. “A world without dance would be……….”

Georgia: “…unnatural.”

A Special Note from Dance Instructor Dario J. Moore:

The Dance Happy Project is an important project for reasons that extend beyond the technical aspects of dance education. The classes at the coalition teach young people, quite literally, how to take control of their movement through time and space. Through dance, students learn to see that they can create choices and that their choices have both value and consequences. Soon they learn to make the connection that they can choose to succumb to challenging circumstances or they can consciously discover ways to rise above seemingly impossible situations. It's this shift in perception that becomes the real lifeline for kids in challenging circumstances -— when they begin to see through different eyes, their whole world opens up and new outcomes are inevitable. This is the most powerful part of the Dance Happy Project.


Art Reflecting Art - The Dance Happy Project's First Fundraising Event:

WHAT:           Dance Concert and Art Auction (Participating dance companies: The Coby Project, Dawn Branch Works, Mary Love Dance Project, David Gabriel, and more).

WHERE:       The Margeson Theater, the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center, Orlando, Florida.

WHEN:          Monday, February 9th 2015. Doors open at 5:45pm; Performance at 6:30pm; Silent bidding ends at 7:30pm.

TICKETS:     $10 for General Admission, $15 for Reserved Seating. Call The Center for Contemporary Dance at 407-695-8366.

The Dance Happy Project
Twitter: @thedancehappy
Find out how you can support the project.


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