Sarah Maughan

Photo by Sarah Maughan


Empowering youth through dance

The only program of its kind, we are a dance outreach program teaching a movement-based curriculum to students in schools and community centers. We combine dance education, dance/movement therapy principles, and performance to encourage embodiment, resiliency, and a positive self-concept in under resourced youth. While doing this, we provide undergraduate dance majors with valuable teaching and community experience.

Our Team

Creative Process


Performing Ourselves is a dance outreach project based in Madison, WI that empowers youth & develops leaders through dance. The program teaches a movement-based curriculum to youth in schools and local community  centers. Performing Ourselves combines dance education, dance/movement   therapy principles and performance to foster embodiment, resiliency, and  positive self-concept in community youth.


Through an innovative curriculum, Performing Ourselves uses the modality    of movement to increase participants’ confidence, competence, personal   character, ability to contribute, sense of control, coping skills, and connection to each other and their surroundings (Kenneth Ginsburg’s 7 C’s for Fostering  Resilience). These building blocks of resiliency empower and equip the 5-14  year old program participants, youth who are  90% children of color and 95-100% living in poverty.


Art and movement are an essential and enriching part of youth’s lives. Carla  Hannaford (1995) wrote in her book, Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All   in Your Head, “movement activates the neural wiring throughout the body, making the whole body the instrument of learning.” Dance improves   motor skills, decision making, creativity, risk taking cultural understanding,  attentiveness, and awareness. Performing Ourselves brings quality dance  programming to youth who would typically have difficulty accessing these opportunities.


A 2014 report by the Any Given Child Madison team revealed that 0% of K-6th  graders, 3% of 7th graders and 5% of 8th graders in the Madison  Metropolitan School District were enrolled in a dance course taught by a certified specialist. Entering its 7th year of programming, Performing Ourselves has served hundreds of youth participants, employed over 20 university students, and impacted numerous community centers, schools,  and after school programs all around the city of Madison. Program teachers have learned valuable skills that they have taken into their lives beyond the university.  

The numbers

Performing Ourselves engages with undergraduate dance majors to share the joy of creative dance, movement expression, and performance. In the 2018-2019 school year, programing and residencies will take place in Orchard Ridge, Leopold, Sandburg, Mendota, and Frank Allis Elementary, as well as Allied Drive, Lussier, Madison Community Montessori School, Elver Park, Goodman, Vera Court Neighborhood, East Madison, Packers/Northport, and Kennedy Heights Community Center.

Schools & Community Centers

Youth Served

Teaching Artists

Student Performers