On October 24th, 2013, thirteen hip hop dance students from John Amesse Elementary performed at the TEDx (Think, Exchange, Debate) conference in Lakewood, Colorado. This conference focused specifically on education innovation, and the John Amesse dancers were invited because of the classes they have taken through Dance Exploration, a non-profit organization founded by Jessica Clayton that combines dance instruction with applied literacy practice. These students, who range from second through fifth grade, were selected to participate in the six-week dance class each Friday as a reward for having perfect attendance throughout the school year. As the dancers waited backstage while the last presenter spoke, we all whispered about how nervous we were.
They were the final performance of the evening for an audience of more than a hundred people. Our students were fortunate enough to be sponsored by the TEDx coordinators, Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Michael Jenet, who paid for the cost of transportation to and from the conference. The purpose of the TED conferences is to create a space for people across the world to come together and discuss how we can make the world a better place on both small and large scales. This sponsorship was the very essence of TED.
Just before the dancers skipped out on the stage to perform, I asked them why they were here. Tess, a fifth-grader, responded by saying, “Because you care about us a whole lot.” She got that right.