What began as a teenage dream (not the Katy Perry kind!) has, in just five short years, grown into one of the most innovative and exciting international philanthropic organizations based in Santa Barbara. Back in 2006, Everybody Dance Now! (EDN!) was the brainchild of a near-child, the then 14-year-old Jackie Rotman, a student at Santa Barbara High, a brilliant dancer, and a force of nature when it comes to organizing. Inspired by a chance moment involving technical difficulties at a performance for seniors, Rotman conjured the organization’s name and mission out of her desire to spread the joy of dance classes to everybody—first everybody in Santa Barbara, and now to everybody around the world.
On Saturday, April 23, participants, fans, and friends of EDN! (as it is known among the initiated) will gather at the Westside Girls and Boys Club in Santa Barbara for a celebration that’s part performance, part fundraiser, and all dance. Rotman will be there along with Jess Davis, Kelly Furukawa, Olivia Berci, and the members of the EDN! performance group. The goal of the event is to commemorate a key milestone in the EDN! story and to look forward to the next chapter in this ongoing tale of youthful energy overcoming all obstacles.
What Everybody Dance Now! offers to the students it serves in Santa Barbara, and now across the country, is exactly what brought its leaders together in the first place—top-quality dance instruction. Development Director Olivia Berci told me that the program has now expanded to “17 locations in Santa Barbara alone, and at least 17 classes a week.” She went on to clarify the group’s mission by saying, “The leaders teach classes, but since we all met through Santa Barbara Dance Arts, and we wanted the free classes to be on the same level as what we attend ourselves, as soon as we raised the money to do so, we began hiring the dance teachers from SBDA to go out and do the free classes as well.” The goal of EDN! is to level the playing field (or is that the dance floor?) so that all young people who want to learn to dance can receive the same kind of instruction that was once only available through paid memberships in elite dance schools.
That effort toward bringing dance to everyone is paying off, as can be seen through the success of the EDN! performance group, which appeared last spring on the hit MTV program America’s Best Dance Crew. This exposure not only lifted the spirits of those who participated; it also put EDN! founder Rotman in front of a giant audience for long enough to generate a surge of interest in the program from all over the United States and beyond. Since that day the EDN! magic has spread in the form of new chapters and designated local leaders in 11 cities in the United States and Canada. Saturday’s gathering comes on the fifth anniversary of the program, and on the first anniversary of this quantum leap onto the international stage.
In a recent email, Rotman expressed her gratitude to all who have contributed to making EDN! such a success, and invited them to attend on Saturday, April 23, to learn about what’s happening next, to celebrate, to observe, and even to dance. As Berci put it, “We’re keeping it small this time—150 or 200 people—because we want to stay true to our roots and our identity, which is to work in a way that remains totally personal and one-to-one. Rather than starting a big capital campaign, we are instead planning to initiate a program of private sponsorships for some of our individual students. We want to show that EDN! supports our members not only onstage but also in the community.”
The Everbody Dance Now! spring celebration is free and open to the public. Saturday, April 23, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Westside Boys and Girls Club, 602 West Anapamu Street. For more info, visit everybodydancenow.org.