Aids Health Foundation

Dancing to a Positive Future

Aids Health Foundation

By Samantha Merkle


At Groove With Me we take fitness seriously.  As a nonprofit that provides free dance classes to girls who reside in East Harlem and the South Bronx, it’s natural that we encourage healthy, active lifestyles.

Our haven in East Harlem aims to build self-confidence in young females in an effort to prevent risk-taking behaviors. As the Director of Engagement and Outreach, I have the pleasure of seeing first hand how the community within our walls serves as a safe and creative space for the whole family to grow and flourish.
The dance classes, offered in a wide variety of disciplines and lasting an hour, promote the development of several important skills including teamwork, creativity, discipline, confidence, and perseverance—to name a few.  And of course, dance classes serve as an excellent form of exercise.  Many GWM students take multiple classes a week, boosting their opportunities to reap these benefits.
A study conducted in 2013 found that among girls who have attended GWM more than 5 years, 83% exercise regularly, 83% learned to follow rules, 76% said GWM positively influenced their ability to deal with fear, nerves, stress and anxiety.
These results resonate.  They show GWM is reaching the next generation of females.  Our hope is students take the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle on with them and to their future children.

Likewise, GWM strives to offer helpful information, fitness classes, and well-being workshops for moms throughout the year as frequently as possible.
“It’s important for the moms,” said a Groovin’ mom Magdalena, mother of three.  “To relax and have a moment for ourselves.”
For this and other reasons, yoga and meditation are constant favorites among parents.  “Heels” classes have also been a big hit this year—where that’s right, moms dance in high heels.  The classes focus on lines, walks, balance, and choreography.  Heels classes allow moms to let loose, have fun, and strengthen their inner sense of self.
Parents have vocalized they want to set good examples for their children in regards to healthy living and fitness.  However, figuring out the logistics of fitting fitness in can seem a bit daunting.  And that’s why opportunities to move, sweat, and learn are special ones.
We aim to make classes and workshops as accessible to parents as possible –they’re free, offered in a familiar space, and free childcare is always available.
New York Presbyterian Hospital led a three-week program for parents, Health for Life, in May.  Parents participated in sessions focusing on healthy snacks and meals, portion sizes using the MyPlate method, and how to talk to daughters about maintaining healthy weights and continuing to lead active lifestyles.  Parents want to make informed choices for themselves and their families.gwm-1671857_orig

It’s clear to us that when we affect a woman, we’re impacting the whole family.
“We feel safe and free,” Adelaida, who has three daughters at GWM, reflected on her participation in fitness and wellness classes.
We look forward to continuing to encourage healthy, active lifestyles as GWM celebrates 20 years of dancing to a positive future.
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