Founded in 2016, Conga Kids is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), arts-in-education charitable foundation with the mission to provide a dynamic partner dance program and ancillary programs that develop students creative potential, and sets a foundation of respect, teamwork, confidence, leadership, and a sense of accomplishment, while teaching important inter-personal communication skills that are essential to life.
Conga Kids utilizes a standards-based program that teaches 5th grade students five ballroom dances (e.g., Merengue, Swing, Salsa, Tango, and Fox Trot). However, Conga Kids is much more than teaching the art of dance, it is about breaking down social barriers, eliminating bias, teaching students to honor and respect each other, and promoting self-confidence, communication, and cooperation. The curriculum offers eighteen classes over a nine-week period. Trained teaching artists not only instruct dance, but also provide writing assignments, lessons exploring dance in a global context, and professional development for teachers. Each curriculum concludes with a culmination ceremony with full grade participation (parents included) followed by a competition where the top five dancing teams from each school, based on leadership, emotional and social gains, and dance are invited to compete with other schools to celebrate their accomplishments.
Under the program leadership of our Artistic Director, Daniel Ponickly, we are proud to announce that this year, Conga Kids will be partnering with three Unified School Districts (Los Angeles Unified School District, Beverly Hills Unified School District, and Lynwood Unified School District), and over 3,000 students will participate in the program. Mr. Ponickly has over twenty years experience in the dance arts-in-education field, is one of the teachers in the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom, and has created programming for LAUSD, SMMUSD, and other organizations in Los Angeles.
Looking toward the future, our goal is to continue building on the program’s growth and diversity by focusing expansion in underserved and economically disadvantaged communities in Los Angeles County. In addition, we will work with Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science to conduct a rigorous evaluation to define why the work we do is important and the impact it has on increasing academic achievement: graduation rates, reducing obesity, possible effects on domestic violence, reducing youth violence, and of course, the benefits derived from the experience of dance.
Conga Kids is also in the process of exploring long-term strategies to include leadership programs, summer intensives, and a weekend academy.