Momentum uses dance to teach children lifelong habits

 

Each year, Liane Egle promises herself she won’t cry at the year-end performance of Momentum by 1,000 Central Ohio children. But it’s an impossible goal.

“You see all these kids on stage — so joyful, and they’re all doing the same thing — it’s just so inspiring,” she says.

Monica Kridler started Momentum to engage children in dance, music and performance to develop lifelong habits of self-discipline, teamwork and excellence. Egle, who was hired two years ago as the first full-time executive director, is helping guide the organization toward the future.

A foundation for success

While dance is the medium, Egle says Momentum is about teaching children life skills.

“We focus on neighborhoods of high need, so that children who may not have had access to the arts are able to participate in this program at no cost,” she says.

The 30-week program works with fourth graders and their teachers in Columbus and Hilliard City Schools, as well as with several charter schools. The curriculum, developed by the National Dance Institute’s Jacques d’Amboise, is utilized by 13 organizations across the country.

Egle says that with a level playing field, everyone learns something new, and it doesn’t matter who is gifted academically or athletically.

“We’ll have instances where a child maybe doesn’t want to participate — they stand outside the circle,” Egle says. “More often than not, that child, 10, 12 weeks into the program, will be just as enthusiastic and participatory as anyone else in the room. It’s amazing to see.”

Several students, those who show coordination and a commitment to the program’s principles, also are invited to attend Sunday rehearsals to learn more challenging choreography as part of Team XL. Many of those students join Team XO the following year and keep dancing through eighth grade.

And one former Momentum dancer just joined a professional ballet theater company in New York City, Egle says.

Expanding to the need

Momentum recently moved to a larger facility, even though it doesn’t have studio space yet. Egle says it’s a balancing act to try to meet the demand; schools pay about 25 percent of the program’s total cost, with the rest coming through fundraising.

“I get calls every day of people saying, ‘We really want Momentum in our school,’” she says.

The nonprofit also thoroughly trains its teaching artists. A great dancer and choreographer won’t necessarily be a great instructor, and the program needs to be uplifting and 45 minutes of joy for the children.

“The whole idea is that every time a child is in the class, they’ll feel successful,” Egle says. “And success is going to be very different for every single child.”

 

Then and now

Momentum, founded in 2003, began as a month-long residency for 50 children at one school and grew to 150 students at three schools by the end of the season.

Today, the nonprofit serves more than 1,600 students a year. It has also expanded into new programs, such as Early Learners, which focuses on preschoolers, and Chance to Dance that is offered to elementary children with autism, physical disabilities and/or visual impairments.