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Groove With Me
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A visit to Groove With Me - a dance studio with free classes in Harlem

by Robert Abrams
March 13, 2006
Groove With Me
2271 Third Avenue, 2nd Floor
(between 123rd & 124th Streets)
New York, NY 10035
212-987-5910

A visit to Groove With Me - a dance studio with free classes in Harlem

Robert Abrams
March 13, 2006

You can tell that Harlem is hopping by reading the real estate section of the paper. You can also tell that Harlem is hopping, both figuratively and literally, by peering behind an unmarked door on Third Avenue between 123rd and 124th streets.

Groove With Me, a dance studio offering Ballet, Hip Hop, tap, jazz, funk, theatre and movement, teaches free dance classes to kids in Harlem. The studio has a nice smooth wood floor. When I visited a group of college students from Vanderbilt University were there on an alternative spring break. They had just finished painting the studio and were about to teach a hip hop class to a group of 10-12 year old girls. This class is called "Who am I?" and combines dance instruction with discussion of life issues. Today the topic was nutrition.

Two hundred kids take classes at Groove With Me taught by 21 volunteer teachers. Abby Rosin, the founder, often teaches classes. Meredith Sherman, the program director, is a social worker by training. One of Groove With Me's teachers is Ashley Tuttle of ABT and Movin' Out. Most of their students live in East Harlem with a few coming from elsewhere. They also have a class on the Lower East Side since that is where the program started before they got their own studio space. The space is about 1400 square feet in one long room, plus offices.

Groove With Me is supported by individuals, corporations, government, grants and earned income from doing workshops for other programs or renting out their space. As a result, their classes are free.

Groove With Me started when Abby Rosin asked existing organizations if they wanted a dance component. Then one of her students brought Abby to her camp and it spread. Groove With Me is now running at capacity for their existing studio space. They would like to serve more kids, and may eventually get some extra space in the same building to add about 50 more kids. They now teach classes during all times the kids are not in school.

They measure the progress of their kids with surveys, how they are doing in school, their mood, how they can handle conflict. From their teachers they get a measure of the kids' artistic, social and behavioral progress. They also do a parent survey. The program director observes classes. They have found that their students have had a 33% increase in grades in school, as well as improvements in attitudes. While their students have made progress, Abby also acknowledges that the students are at Groove With Me by choice, and so may not be the ones who would otherwise be on the streets. This is certainly true of any voluntary program, even one that is free. On the other hand, Groove With Me is clearly serving a population that might not be exposed to dance without Groove With Me's services: the students share tap shoes.

While Groove With Me doesn't teach partner or social dance per se, Abby feels the kids would know how to show off at LQ or Vinyl or SkateKey in the Bronx. The students get to perform for the community, including Russell Simmons' Christmas party for children that invites several youth organizations. They perform at fundraisers, Race for the Kids, and Body Sculpt, a fitness expo for kids, among other events. The kids get to attend dance performances through Groove With Me about once per year. Abby would like to do more with this, but organizing field trips can be very difficult.

Abby is inspired by Brian Friedman and Renee Harris. Ms. Harris is a respectable hip hop choreographer who did Roman Jewels, a hip hop take on Romeo and Juliet.

After talking to Abby, I observed the "Who am I?" class. The kids started by showing some choreography they had been learning. They had good unison and spins. They clearly knew their choreography. Next the Vanderbilt students led a discussion of nutrition, such as by contrasting the value and effects of M&Ms versus an apple. From their responses, the kids clearly know what is healthy, even if they don't always follow such guidelines.

In the latter part of the class, the Vanderbilt students taught the kids some new hip hop choreography. The students picked up the sequences well. They were able to dance it on their own after only perhaps ten runs with the teacher dancing with them.

Overall, my two hour visit left me with the impression that Groove With Me is contributing vital arts instruction to the kids of Harlem.


Learning a Hip Hop routine
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Learning a Hip Hop routine
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Learning a Hip Hop routine
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Learning a Hip Hop routine
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Learning a Hip Hop routine
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Learning a Hip Hop routine
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Learning a Hip Hop routine
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



The kids perform
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Abby Rosin and Meredith Sherman
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



The outside of the Groove With Me studio
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



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