Moving in the Spirit
Moving in the Spirit is a nationally-recognized youth development program that uses the art of dance to transform the lives of children and teens in Atlanta, Georgia. Our mission is to educate, inspire and unite young people through the art of dance, propelling them to become compassionate leaders.
Moving in the Spirit was born in summer of 1986. Dana Lupton, co-founder, had just graduated from the University of Georgia and was volunteering as a camp counselor at Techwood Homes, a public housing project where the children struggled daily with feelings of anger, isolation and hopelessness. Lupton ended up connecting with the students not through any of the camp activities, but through a shared interest in dance.
There, Lupton realized the power of dance to transcend barriers, catalyze social change, and cultivate confidence and resiliency in young people. She decided to create a curriculum blending dance with evidence-based youth development strategies, preparing young people for success in school, life and the workforce -- and for roles as change-agents in their communities.
Now an award-winning nonprofit, Moving in the Spirit’s program architecture is guided by the Positive Youth Development model, designed to optimize a child's developmental progress even in the face of challenges and hardship. Our programs help young people transition successfully into adulthood through an innovative arts education curriculum that imparts critical social, emotional and cognitive skills children and teens need to thrive.
All teaching artists, led by our Director of Education (a cognitive-behavioral therapist, dance therapist and licensed professional counselor), receive bi-weekly training in PYD strategies, which they seamlessly weave throughout the rigorous study of dance to help students develop key youth development competencies.
Teaching artists take a vested interest in their students' lives and create a challenging, yet nurturing, environment in which students develop rooted, sustained relationships with their teachers and with each other. Class activities include training in various forms of dance and creative movement; education workshops (health, drug abuse, conflict resolution, college preparation); and leadership training.
Students also collaborate with their teaching artists and with local and national choreographers to create works that celebrate diversity and make a difference in the world. Students cite this as one of the most rewarding aspects of being involved with Moving in the Spirit. Giving students creative agency builds their confidence, develops their voices, and empowers them to meaningfully address important issues in their own communities.
As they age through the program, students take on progressive leadership roles in the organization as class leaders, teaching assistants, interns and representatives on our Board of Directors. Outside of the classroom, students practice their developing competencies and leadership skills through performances, public speaking opportunities, field trips and service learning projects.
Moving in the Spirit invests in research and evaluation to ensure our programs impact the lives of youth in lasting ways. Each dancer’s personal growth is monitored through a series of rigorous evaluations, conducted in a pre and post test format, that measure leadership attributes and youth development milestones. These evaluations confirm that students enrolled in our dance program improve each year in the following key areas: confidence, empathy, positive outlook/belief in future, sense of belonging, interpersonal communication, problem solving, emotional intelligence, resiliency and self-regulation.
Students graduate from Moving in the Spirit with confidence in themselves as artists and leaders, poised to succeed beyond the stage and make a difference in their own communities. We are proud that, compared to Atlanta's 71% graduation rate, 100% of our seniors graduate from high school and gain college admission.