Performing Ourselves was a dance program based out of Madison, Wisconsin that provided community youth with movement opportunities from 2011 to 2023. The program was co-founded by Kate Corby, a Professor of Dance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Mariah LeFeber, a Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist. In the midst of a variety of staff over the decade plus tenure of the program, Mary Patterson, also a Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist, joined the core staff team in 2017 and had a formative role in the program. Performing Ourselves combined best practice principles from dance education and dance/movement therapy to foster embodiment, connection, and positive self-concept in youth through partnerships with community centers and schools. 

Throughout the tenure of face-to-face programming, Performing Ourselves served approximately 1300 youth ages 4-14, trained and employed 40 undergraduate college students as teachers, and offered programming in 9 community centers and 7 elementary schools. Supported by grants and donations, dancers did not pay to participate in classes. The flexible and student-centered program content included creative movement, community building, and contemporary dance fundamentals, contingent on the skill level of the students and their immediate social and emotional needs. 


Movement is an essential component of learning and overall wellness. Educators continue to support the benefit of experiential learning and arts integration into their own practices, noting that interdisciplinary arts education increases attention to detail and persistence in students, not to mention improves test scores, content retention, and critical thinking skills as students participate in embodied learning. Amidst a myriad of potential arts-based practices, movement-based sensory experiences, when paired with student reflection and increased body awareness, provide students with a foundation for self-settling and emotional modulation. Hence, through arts-based embodied learning, students connect to themselves, and simultaneously connect and creatively problem solve with others with greater ease and consistency.


Performing Ourselves’ community programming was made possible by the generosity of many local funding sources and individual donors. A grant from Dane Arts supported the creation of these videos specifically, and the Virginia Horne Henry Fund through the University of Wisconsin-Madison supported the development of this open-access website. In addition, the free dissemination of these videos would not be possible without the Wisconsin Center for Education Products and Services. Finally, Mariah, Kate, and Mary would like to especially thank Aaron Granat, Arielle Buslovich, and the fellow members of the UW Community Arts Collaboratory housed with the office of Professional Learning and Community Education (PLACE) in the UW-Madison School of Education for their invaluable contributions.


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Mariah Meyer LeFeber, PhD, LPC, BC-DMT
Mary Patterson, MA, BC-DMT
Kate Corby, MFA