A new student group is connecting Duke students to children in Durham through the power of dance.
The Duke-Durham Partnership for Dance was founded after budgetary cuts to Durham public schools resulted in less funding for arts education in elementary school. Since its founding, the group has fueled the passions of student dancers, young and old.
"The Duke-Durham Partnership for Dance really takes me back to my own childhood," said junior Sruti Pisharody, teasurer of DDPD. "I remember dance being such an integral part of my heritage and identity. I remember the feeling of achievement that came with mastering a step, and the sense of pride and self-worth I felt after every performance."
DDPD hopes to foster passion in its young pupils, as they are exposed to a number of different dance forms. The group gathers all of its members—who range in experience—and travels to elementary schools to deliver classes in a variety of styles, including raas, jazz and break dance. The program culminates with a final performance where students showcase their work to the community.
The group also works to educate Durham students about the health benefits of dance, in part as a way to combat childhood obesity,
The founding members of DDPD are quick to point out how much they have personally grown from their teaching experiences.
Junior Rhea Chitalia said the combination of philanthropy and dance is a major draw for members of the Duke community, noting one instance in which a freshman was drawn to Duke by the work of the group.
"The greatest part of this whole process has been the feeling that we really are making a difference in the lives of community members and Duke students," said junior Deepika Potarazu,a founding member of DDPD. "It's a beautiful thing to watch an idea become a reality and I only hope that our membership continues to grow and that our programs get exponentially better."