Monday, May 7, 2012


                                 A Founder's Diary #2: 
                      The Story Behind The MISSION of Dance to Unite
Dance to Unite's mission is to use dance as a vehicle to achieve unity and peace.
We offer youth a program of free dance classes, which include an educational component, as the means to learn about different cultures. 
Our mission is to promote acceptance, appreciation of diversity, a sense of unity and peace.

To explain why our mission means so much to me I would have to travel back in time, to the time when I was a Hebrew school teacher and a volunteer Hip Hop dance teacher simultaneously.
I spent my time traveling from Westport, Connecticut to NYC's Lower East Side projects. Those two seemingly different paths intercepted quite a few times in my life and made me realize that I was blessed to have something unique to offer; I was able to create a connection between different groups of kids and myself through my Israeli culture. Those two paths' ultimate interception provided the base for a new path to unfold; the path that led to our Dance to Unite program's mission.

As a Hebrew school teacher at The Conservative Synagogue in CT, my obligation was to teach Jewish religion, tradition, history and the Hebrew language.
As a volunteer dance teacher for the non-profit organization Groove With Me I focused my teaching on choreography, structure and dance technique.
Both in Groove With Me and at the Synagogue I was unaware of the influence I had on my students as an Israeli. The connection my students began to develop to the Israeli culture happened unintentionaly, it evolved naturally based on our human connection. Over the years I began to realize the significance and responsibility that one holds when representing one's culture. A personal connection, be it with one singular person, can put a face on a whole country, culture and people. I firmly believe that it can be used as a tool to transform judgement into a new form of understanding, connection and appreciation.

Two years into teaching Hebrew school I was approached by two concerned mothers of my students with the request to revive the youth groups' programs. They wanted to strengthen the bond between their kids and the synagogue upon the completion of their Bar / Bat Mitzvah studies. I had no idea what the job entailed, they insisted that all they needed was someone that their kids felt a connection with. The genuine concern for their kids' future and the promise of creative freedom, made me accept the job. That evening I became the Synagogue's Youth Director, now all I needed to learn was what it meant...

To become a Hebrew school teacher and a Youth Group Director was a constant ongoing learning experience. The goal was to connect kids to their culture and religion. When you have passion and care, others (especially kids) pick up on it and then they begin to care and it becomes a group effort. That's the only explanation I have for our phenomenal youth group success: we cared!
The commandment "Love your neighbor as yourself" was the common thread in all of my teachings. As a secular Israeli who "fell" upon a religious job, it was what I related to the most. Writing the commandment's words in Hebrew, on top of the classroom's blackboard, served as a constant reminder to my students and myself of what's really important: to conduct ourselves in the world as people who care about one another!

The classroom in Ct, with the Hebrew words: "Love your neighbor as yourself"
Our very first youth group event was a trip from Connecticut to Harlem to see a Groove With Me performance. It was the perfect opportunity to introduce both groups of kids to one another. The underlying message of the event was: "Love your neighbor as yourself" with the explanation that we should love everybody, after all it doesn't say love only your Jewish neighbor or any other specific requirement, it is inclusive of all people. It was a wonderful beginning to a successful youth group programming career and also the beginning of an incredible friendship. On our first event I met Robin Schletter, a students' mother, who later on became our youth groups' Chair Person, currently Dance to Unite's President of the Board and one of my dearest and closest friends.

A certain Groove With Me dance class will be forever ingrained in my mind. The year was 2005, my 12 year old student Christina (who I have known since the age of 6) stormed into the dance studio frantically, covered my body as a protection shield and announced anxiously to me and the rest of the students: " I will not let you go, I will not let you go, you can hide in my room!", I was confused and replied that I am not going anywhere and wanted to know what she was talking about, she continued: " We learned in school that they were taking the Jewish people and you are Jewish ... I want you to know that you have a safe place with me", as she was talking I realized that she was referring to the Holocaust and World War 2. I calmed her down and reassured her that it happened many years ago and that I am safe. Her reaction was endearing to me but more than that it served as my A-HA moment. I realized, for the first time, that I became her association to a whole group of people.

In 2008, we were thrilled to find out that our winter Groove With Me show would take place at Harlem's World-Famous Apollo Theater. Over the years, the kids in my class selected the music for the dance choreography, to my surprise the Israeli music that was often played in the background, to set up for class, was chosen by my students for the performance at the Apollo. As exciting as it was, I had to play devil's advocate, simply because the idea of it made me nervous. I wasn't sure if they were ready to perform to music that was unfamiliar to their families and friends, after all it is important for teenagers to stay relevant to their own popular culture. So I tested them with questions: What if no one claps at the show? What if your friends ridicule you? How comfortable would you be with Hebrew at the Apollo? They stayed adamant and unanimous in their choice of music. Their firm determination made me so proud and it also provided a clear indication of the bond that had developed between us and our cultures. They chose to dance to the Israeli song "Mimamakim": "Out of the Depths"; a love song based on Psalm 130 with a modern twist.


             Click to watch the video of the girls dancing at the APOLLO to the Israeli song "Mimamakim"

Standing in the wings of the Apollo Theater, listening to Idan Raichel's "Mimamakim" and watching the girls dance with passion and pride to the words playing in Hebrew, was a life changing experience. I felt the need to take the message of unity further, it was the right time to step up and provide more opportunities for kids on the lower east side. Less than a year later Dance to Unite had launched. Two and a half years into the program, over 150 kids in the Lower East Side and Brooklyn enjoy our weekly DTU classes.

The summer of 2009 marked the beginning of Dance to Unite. It was an exhilarating experience to explore the foundation of a non-profit organization, yet the creation of our Dance to Unite program was not an "easy ride". There were plenty of challenges, but none of them made me give up. Even though it was painful to witness adversity, to the point of having a few breakdowns, it was the focus on what's really important that kept me going: the need to spread the message of our mission. In a way those challenges were beneficial, they served and still serve as a helpful indication of how much unity is needed and how much a program like Dance to Unite can make a difference.

A challenge that was unexpected came from some of my closest friends, I remember my friend's comment: "We live in the NY area, my daughter goes to kindergarden with kids of different races, what novelty would Dance to Unite have to offer?"
Her comment, as uncomfortable as it was, was golden! It made me realize that there is another type of challenge; the "quiet challenge"of people who are not even aware of the need for unity.
Life in NYC automatically surrounds you with people of different cultures, that does not mean that we understand or care about each other, we are not necessarily united. My personal observation of that fact left me with many unanswered questions: How come next door neighbors, such as Chassidic Jews and African Americans, never communicate? How come certain immigrants live for decades in NYC and are not able to communicate in English? How come the only Israeli that the kids in the inner-city got to know was myself?

Why those questions bother me? I can't say ( perhaps my first blog post can shed some light on that), but the point is that together we can do something about it, we can take action and create a change.
Teaching kids in different cultural environments made me realize that the only reason that connections are not made is that there are few tangible positive opportunities for multi-cultural interactions.
Dance to Unite strongly believes that having youth learn about different cultures will enable them to develop the respect and appreciation needed for our world to move in peace. We use the art of dance as a vehicle to achieve this goal since dance is an activity that transcends all barriers and serves as a powerful means for communication.
NYC has all the potential ingredients, the mix of different cultures, to come together, learn about each other and from each other and create "authentic" unity.  Bringing that potential into reality, through the art of dance, is the true essence of the mission of Dance to Unite!

Thank you for reading my blog! I am excited to share with you my story and invite you to join me on this fascinating journey. I would love to know your thoughts, answer questions and give advice to anyone with an interest!

Check out our website:
Follow us on twitter:  @dancetounite
Forward all questions/comments to Galit Adani at :

Thursday, March 15, 2012


                                                      DANCE to UNITE (DtU)

A Founder's Diary:

The Story Behind Dance to Unite

To blog or not to blog?... That was my question...
After giving it a thought for quite a while I came to realize that my personal story can inspire others who might embark on a similar path in life and at the same time serve to help me, founder of a relatively new non profit organization, document all the needed steps in "making it happen" and include the story behind; all the little details, struggles and precious moments that sometimes tend to get lost or forgotten.

My name is Galit Adani and I am the founder of Dance to Unite,Inc.
Dance to Unite,Inc. (DtU) is a non profit organization that offers free dance classes and professional performance opportunities to inner city kids, our main mission is to expose children and teens to various styles of dance as the means to learn about different cultures with the purpose to promote acceptance, appreciation of diversity, a sense of unity and peace.

I often get asked : What made you start Dance to Unite ?

Although DtU was founded officially in October 2009, my passion started many years before, I can trace it back to the years when I was a kid and grew up in Israel, where my love for dance and different cultures had started to flourish.
I didn't grow up as a "typical dancer", my mother didn't push me to take dance classes, in fact I was the one who wished to dance and even though I participated in a few dance classes ( for a short few months) I was by no means classically trained.
I got to fulfill my dream and take dance seriously only later, in my mid 20's, a time when most professional dancers would start thinking of an alternative way to make a living. I am convinced that my immense appreciation for the art of dance stemmed from the very fact that I didn't get the dance training I so wished for as a kid. The fact that I didn't enroll in dance classes didn't stop me from trying to emulate dance steps I got to see in music videos, choreograph moves with my friends and somehow perform in many talent shows in my school. 
Dance was always a big part of my life, growing up in a household that wasn't too happy I found dance as a way to escape, I created my own happy world filled with music and dance and even though according to the dance world I wasn't properly trained in my mind I was.

My first visit to NYC was at the age of 12, with my family as a gift for my bat mitzvah. I visited many cities in the U.S, but NYC held a special place in my heart because some of my relatives lived there; but mostly because I got to experience the city's unique multi-cultural essence and it's incredible energy. As a kid growing up in the 80's walking in the streets of NYC made a  lasting impression on me that has left an imprint on my life. Young kids were breakdancing in the street with a boom box to music playing loudly, this was new and fascinating to me. I wanted to ask those kids how they learned how to dance? They didn't seem to have money to take classes, in fact they were collecting money from the street's spectators. Hip Hop was a new growing culture and as a young girl from Israel who was experiencing its growth, I was eager to know more about it.

I know that my NYC experience as a kid combined with my admiration for the television program Fame had sparked my interest and motivation to volunteer and learn about the Hip Hop culture years later. I have been blessed to become a volunteer dance teacher to inner city kids, under the non-profit organization : Groove with Me, for eleven consecutive years ( 1998-2009). At the same time I was taking dance classes in Queens College and at the prestigious dance school : Broadway Dance Center.  I had the incredible opportunity to take dance classes with some of the world's best dance teachers yet my personal favorite teachers were the very kids that I volunteered to teach. They were the ones who were blunt enough to tell me what dance moves were cool and what moves were "whack", I was learning about the Hip Hop culture through teaching the very kids who lived it… the truth was that even though on the outside I was the teacher, I was really the student.

A few years ago I found myself answering a simple question - " so… what do you do for a living ?"
My answer left the person who was asking the question a little confused to say the least…
"So you are a Hebrew School teacher and a youth program director at a synagogue in Connecticut, a Belly Dance teacher to Jewish modern orthodox women in Brooklyn and a Hip Hop teacher to kids in the inner city? What's the connection ?"
I joined the laughter, I don't take myself too seriously and understood why my answer seemed confusing and funny, but what seemed confusing on the outside made all the sense to me. My experience in dance was always connected to the human connections and cultures, I wasn't interested in the performance aspect as much as I was interested in the story behind the cultural dance, it was so natural for me to surround myself in an environment of various community centers, whether I worked in a synagogue or an inner city community center made no difference, it always involved people, cultures, education and dance whenever possible. It was all connected.
I was inspired to write a poem as an explanation to myself of why I chose to do what I do and how it is all connected, I ended the poem with the words : "join me and dance to unite" not knowing then that a couple of years later these very last three words will become our organization's official title.

And so a few years later all "my rivers": my love for education, kids, cultures, diversity, dance, empowerment, unity and peace all joined together and run into "my sea" : The non profit organization: Dance to Unite.

DtU was founded two and a half years ago but the work had started many years before. For people who share a similar spiritual path as me I would say that I was born to discover my true mission in life. Looking at the big picture I can see how everything that I have endured, from my childhood dreams to the painful obstacles, was there to serve as a platform for the realization of my life's mission : to teach and inspire unity among people!


Thank you for reading my blog! I am excited to share my story with you and invite you to join me on this fascinating journey. I would love to know your thoughts, answer questions and give my advice to anyone with an interest !

Check our website :
Follow us on twitter : @dancetounite
Forward all questions / comments to Galit Adani at :