Dance program sparks joy while teaching cultural diversity

NEW YORK CITY -- A dance program brings the community together and sparks joy, even after suffering a huge loss at the start of the pandemic.

"This is the only class that was on the ground, so it's a very special class," said Galit Adani, founder of Dance to Unite.

Elementary and middle school students have been grooving five days a week in person since last October when NYC schools opened back up.

"Because we were able to be here and bring the kids here, a lot of the afterschool programs couldn't bring the kids into the facility," Adani said.

The Dance to Unite program facilitates classes at 11 different schools, and throughout the pandemic, all have been virtual -- except for the one at PS64 on the Lower East Side.

Thanks to a partnership with the Educational Alliance Afterschool Program, kids faithfully show up every day.

Dance to Unite was founded 11 years ago by Adani who saw a niche opportunity while volunteering with students.

"They took to music from my country, I happen to be from Israel," Adani said. "I said if this happens organically and opens their mind to acceptance and love and compassion, what if we did it intentionally."

But before the dancing begins, there is always a lesson that often features the word of the week about kindness.

"Dance to Unite is all about people giving love and kindness to other people who are different and uniting all around the world," one student said.

And the routines can get fancy -- students learn dances from all over the world.

"In a usual class, usually before the pandemic we have Indian dance, we have hip hop, we have jazz, African dance, Chinese dance, flamenco," Adani said. "It depends on the teacher that comes to us and their background."

And even though the instruction is still virtual for most classes, it is still a lot of fun.

"Teach and celebrate cultural diversity, that's the most important thing," Adani said. "The dance is the vehicle, it's not the goal. If they become professional dancers, awesome."