Using Dance to Help Foster Children

            "Dance is the hidden language of the soul." - Martha Graham

       In the late 1930’s a dancer named Marian Chace was teaching dance and asked a very important question - why do people dance if they have no desire to become professional dancers? This question led her to begin to focus more on the people that she was teaching than the actual dance technique. She began to see that emotions were stored in the body, and that many people used dance as a means of communication and expression. She welcomed World War II veterans who were experiencing psychological problems into her classes and helped them to use dance to work through some of the post-traumatic stress they were experiencing.

            In 1990, the American Journal of Dance Therapy published a study that showed modern dance could be used to reduce anxiety and that it was significantly more effective than music and physical education classes.

            Today, in 2014, Melanie Buttarazzi is determined to use dance to help foster children confront the emotions they have stored in their bodies and battle the anxiety they deal with daily…

            A Toronto native, Melanie has toured with her musician father and brought dance and music to children in both Canada and the United States. Her interest in arts outreach has led her to create the program “Fostering Dreams Through Dance.”  She is partnering with the First Star Program, an arts and academic program at UCLA that works to place at-risk children on a path toward achieving a college education.

            Melanie and a group of talented dancers and choreographers, who have all agreed to donate their time, will be working with 15-25 teenage foster children to use dance to help them cope with the emotional upheavals they have encountered in their lives. The dancers will work with the students, introducing them to different dance styles, teaching them how to use movement to express words and emotions, and helping them choreograph their own pieces based upon their life experiences. 

            While one long-term goal of the project is to provide these children with scholarships to dance schools so that they may continue to dance after the project ends, the main goals will be to help these at-risk students learn how to express themselves through movement and to help them process emotions that may have been stored in their bodies for years.

            Projects like this remind us all why dance matters and why we fight to keep the arts alive in our society. You can find more information about “Fostering Dreams Through Dance” at  You might also want to check out the Kickstarter Campaign and let them know that you believe in the power of dance to change lives, too.