June 29, 2023

Kinesiology students introduce hundreds of high school kids to lifelong benefits of dance

Inaugural East Side Dance Festival+ inspires youth who dance with the possibility of a post-secondary education
Dance group shot
Nelson Mandela High School on UCalgary campus tour. Jasmine Sun

You hear it before you see it: thumping base, music and energy. It’s not in a bar. It's 400 students, teachers, and two Calgary urban dance performing groups Gateway and iLLFX in the university red gym in kinesiology. This is the inaugural East Side Dance Festival+ (ESDF+) pilot project held in May and kinesiology/dance students served as peer leaders.

Dr. Sarah Kenny, PhD, and professor emerita Anne Flynn worked with the kinesiology /dance peer leaders since January to introduce over 350 high school and junior high dance students to the kinesiology/dance programs through classroom visits across the city, and a campus tour.

“The project grew out of the new dance and health promotion course offered by Kenny in response to the last kinesiology curriculum review,” says Flynn. “This course exposes students to research on the overwhelmingly positive health benefits of participating in dance across the lifespan, and the ESDF+ project engages with youth who dance to expose them to the possibilities of post-secondary studies. Dance is the shared passion for these students.”

Dance teachers and students

East Side Dance Festival was created 10 years ago as a way to bring together dance teachers and students in the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Calgary Separate School Board and has grown from four schools to 13. The festival won the 2023 Calgary Award for Community Achievement.

East Side Dance Festival+ aims to support these high school dance students on a path to post-secondary studies through peer mentorship and exposure to campus life. 

2023 East Side Dance Festival+ peer leaders prepare for campus tour.

2023 East Side Dance Festival+ peer leaders prepare for campus tour.

Anne Flynn

“Participating as a peer leader for ESDF+ was such a great experience. I got to share aspects of my school that I am most proud of, and provide the insight, specifically pertaining to the dance and kinesiology programs that I wish had been shared with me when I was in high school,” says student Jada Kiss.

“Hearing that the school tour sparked a greater interest in these areas for some of the students makes me excited to see how these individuals will shape our school and the greater dance and health community.”

The pilot project was also supported by the campus radio station, CJSW who opened their studios to tour all the students, and W&M Dance Projects who provided videographers to record the Red Gym event. Additional support was provided by College Access Research and Action, a New York-based non-profit specializing in pathways to post-secondary studies. 

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