Brightmoor SOUP Winner – September 2013
Next Step SOUP Winner – May 2014

When Roslyn English isn’t handling cases for the Department of Human Services or coaching varsity cheerleading, you’ll probably find her dancing with girls and boys in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit.

She’s the executive director and co-founder of D.A.N.C.E. Inc., a school aimed at making high-quality dance instruction accessible to those who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

The name stands for “Developing and Nurturing Community Empowerment.”

“Dance is just one piece of the puzzle,” says Roslyn. “It’s about raising youth who are going to be active and productive citizens in our city.”

Roslyn and her teammates encourage their students to participate in the academic coaching they make available three days a week. They require their students to put in 10-30 community service hours depending on their level in the program and offer leadership training, all with the hopes of helping develop “well-rounded youth.”

D.A.N.C.E. Inc. began as a weekly class in Lansing, where Roslyn and two of her friends, all Michigan State University students, saw a need for an affordable dance school for young people. Three years ago, they began the Detroit school in Brightmoor. It started as one-day-a-week program and is now six days with 71 classes and instructors who themselves began as dancers in that inaugural program.

One young woman started with D.A.N.C.E. Inc. three years ago with no experience and a very low GPA. A director picked her up from school almost every day to help her with homework and bring her to practice where she flourished. Over the course of the year, her GPA rose to a 3.7. She graduated from high school a year early, and now, as a college student, she instructs classes for younger dancers. Other students have a similar story. Roslyn says the competitive dancers have an average GPA of 3.6 and 90 percent of the recreational dancers average at a 3.0. She gets to see this transformation first-hand. Not only does she direct the program, but Roslyn also teaches classes about five to six days herself.

“Not being paid is not a big deal to me, because to me the biggest thing is seeing the kids every day, and seeing the growth in them.”

With a program where 85% of their dancers participate in financial assistance, Roslyn says funds are crucial to keeping the training affordable.

The grant they received from SOUP helped D.A.N.C.E. Inc. purchase necessary equipment and subsidize the financial assistance program.

But Roslyn credits SOUP with more than just the ability to meet some physical needs. “A lot of the reason we’ve done so well this year has been because of SOUP.” Through SOUP, Roslyn and her teammates met others in the city who care about the direction it’s taking. They also received attention from a few local media outlets which greatly increased their exposure. It even landed them a partnership with CBS Outdoor who agreed to sponsor them.

Roslyn says that with the increased exposure, more young people have learned about the program and more importantly, that they can afford to participate.

In fact, this is the first year the school has boys. Eight of them, to be exact.

“We’re building up the youth, and the children are the future of our city,” says Roslyn. “Not only our city, but our state, our country, our world.”

For more information about D.A.N.C.E. Inc., visit: www.everyonelovesdance.com

– Shelby Jouppi