When our founder, Jackie Rotman, was 12, she performed a hip-hop dance for eighty teens with disabilities. In response to a technical difficulty with her music, she adapted her performance by inviting audience members onstage to have their own opportunity to express themselves through dance. From watching dozens of teens empowered, exhilarated, and full of self-confidence from dancing, she learned that dance is more than a physical activity; it is a powerful creative force that can bring people together and give them joy and self-esteem.
Two years later, inspired to act, Jackie mobilized three of her dance friends to teach hip-hop voluntarily at three local elementary schools. With guidance from Julie McLeod, who was then the Executive Director of Santa Barbara Dance Alliance, they created Everybody Dance Now! (EDN!), formed an advisory board of community leaders who supported what they were doing, wrote an executive summary, contacted various schools, and started to hold free dance classes at schools that culminated in a spring performance after three months.
As more community organizations heard about EDN!’s work, they, too, wanted dance classes, and EDN! expanded rapidly to meet the community’s needs. Jackie recognized that EDN!’s teachers had many commitments, and that EDN! was competing with other local studios that could pay them to teach. Focused on EDN!’s long term sustainability, she started to write grant applications to foundations and the county to pay instructors and cover other expenses. EDN! was highly successful at obtaining competitive grants. Julie taught Jackie how to obtain a fictitious business name, tax ID number, and business license, open a bank account, create her first sophisticated budget, and purchase liability insurance. EDN! also partnered with organizations that could subsidize classes, and by 2008, EDN! had established partnerships with numerous local programs including Police Activities League, A-OK! Program, Girls Inc of Greater Santa Barbara, Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Santa Barbara, Housing Authority, People's Self Help Housing, 1235 Teen Center, Isla Vista Teen Center, Transition House, Lower Westside Community Center, and more. EDN!'s faculty grew to include high school students, college students, and profesional dance instructors. Jackie also fundraised for and organized two master class with the legendary pioneer of krump dance, Tommy and the Hip-Hop Clowns, which served 200 students and community members in May 2008. These classes motivated young people to pursue positive alternatives to gangs and violence, and even Mayor Marty Blum came to show her support.
Upon Jackie's graduation in June, 2008, EDN! received honors from the Santa Barbara School District through an award that Superintendent Dr. Brian Sarvis created, City of Santa Barbara's Teen Programs at their Youth Leadership Awards Banquet, Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation at a 400-person banquet, and tri-county Superintendent Dr. Bill Cirone on his television show "Cirone on Schools." EDN! had become well-established as a respected in organization in Santa Barbara with numerous partners, and was included in conversations and coalitions on pertinent community issues such as the the arts, education, and combating youth violence.
After graduating, Jackie was accepted into Stanford University where she co-founded a new chapter of EDN!. Before leaving for college, Jackie recruited Alina Wattenberg to serve as EDN!'s Managing Director. Alina, who currently attends Duke University, helped to coordinated EDN! programming in Santa Barbara for two years and contributed significantly to the organization's growth and sustainability.
EDN! in Santa Barbara Today:
After a successful leadership transition, EDN! Santa Barbara is now run by eight youth leaders headed by Chapter Director: Jess Davis, Educational Director: Kelly Furukawa, Assistant Development Director: Olivia Berci, Multimedia & Design Director: Aryanna Aronson, Financial Manager: Haley Araki, Performance Troupe Manager: Claire Patterson, and Leaders-In-Training: Bianca Badham and Laine Fisher. Since 2005 we have served over 1,000 students in Santa Barbara County and we currently offer 17 classes per week.
In the Spring of 2010, Everybody Dance Now! was featured on the hit TV show America’s Best Dance Crew’s “Champions for Charity” episode. Afterward, we received emails from people all over the world in countries as far as Peru, Switzerland, Ireland, China, and Russia, and also within the US and Canada, who were inspired by learning about Everybody Dance Now!. Many people were eager to start Everybody Dance Now! chapters of their own but didn't know where to begin. Out of this need, we expanded EDN! to provide resources, mentorship, training and support to young people to create and sustain their own EDN! chapters. We currently have EDN! chapters in 10 cities throughout the United States. To learn more about Everybody Dance Now! National, visit www.everybodydancenow.org.