Dancing for Emotional and Behavioral Awareness: Moving Peace in Washington, DC!


[NOTE: Dance 4 Peace changed its name to Move This World in 2013.]

More on MTW today at movethisworld.org

This winter marks the end of my second term as a PeaceMover in Washington, DC. I love to watch as students reach their own “breakthrough moments” in Dance 4 Peace. Seeing them renews my energy. It’s thrilling to see my students grasp ideas such as diversity, empathy, or self-control and express it in their own way.  


Dance 4 Peace is a global nonprofit that teaches peace-building through dance and creative movement. As a master’s student in Conflict Resolution and a researcher on the nexus between sport and peace education, my work with this program is a practical extension of the global movement for social change in which I am so heavily involved. Engaging locally with DC students has been a joy, a challenge, and an incredible learning experience in approaches to promoting peace in the classroom and the world.


I’d like to share a story about my classroom this semester, to show you how DC students are learning to identify and manage their emotions in new ways that meet their own talents, strengths, and needs.


Thursday afternoon a few weeks back, three of the boys in my class showed up early, and I was able to spend a few minutes hanging out with them before we got started. I hadn’t told them yet, but the week’s lesson about managing emotions – especially anger.

One boy, Kendell, bounced toward me and asked, “Can I show you what I do when I am mad, to calm down?” (I thought: “OF COURSE YOU CAN! How on target for today’s lesson!”). Barely controlling my internal excitement, I welcomed him to do so. Kendell (a first grader) then proceeded to perform an exceptionally posed headstand. Toes perfectly pointed, muscles tight, face as serene as a Zen master’s, Kendell looked like a yogi, and I felt like I was in an Ashram in the middle of India, not a multi-purpose room in the middle of Ward 8.

Later, when it came time for the entire class to talk about managing emotions, Kendell proudly shared his move with the other students, which encouraged each of them to respond in turn with their own ways of calming down.

In the same circle sharing time, one student who loves D4P but has a lot of energy also had a breakthrough moment. My group is made up of a number of students who pose behavioral issues in their normal classrooms, and Rayshauna is a prime example. She has an abundance of creative energy but tends to get disciplined negatively in traditional classroom settings (I suspect) because she is so easily distracted. Constantly addressing her specific needs would disrupt the flow of managing a 30-student classroom.

As we talked about managing emotions and calming ourselves down, Rayshauna shared that when she is “too happy” in class, the Dance 4 Peace cheer (a three-clap beat that we use to focus classroom attention and my cue that it’s time to practice “active listening”) helps her settle down.

This floored me. Because of the way our discussion was leaning, and because it tends to be difficult for my students to apply abstract concepts, my goal was for students to grasp the use of our strategies to deal with the emotion of anger specifically. I was surprised and pleased that Rayshauna understood that you don’t only need to calm down from anger, but that sometimes, respecting others means calming down from being excitedly happy.


How cool that to her, “calm down” wasn’t positive or negative, just a way to deal with how your body feels. How cool that watching Kendell deal with his emotions in one way helped Rayshauna think about what makes her calm down in her way. How cool that Dance 4 Peace offered them both the space to identify and experience managing their emotions, and to share this with their peers.


This is what I love about Dance 4 Peace. It does not focus on what an instructor tells the students to do or think or be. Rather, it creates space for participants to share with each other how to manage and express their emotions, deal with conflict, and confront the world that presents these challenges every day. 

Views: 397

Tags: Conflict, Dance, Education, Peace, Personal, Resolution, Sport, Urban, Violence, and


You need to be a member of Peace and Collaborative Development Network to add comments!

Join Peace and Collaborative Development Network

Comment by Sara Potler LaHayne on January 20, 2012 at 5:00am

YAY! Thank you so much, Amanda, for sharing your experiences building peace and the highlights of your successes in the classroom. We are thrilled to have you as a DC PeaceMover!

Comment by Brittany Jacoby on January 16, 2012 at 4:15pm

Thanks for posting this : ) I'm going to be a peacemover this semester!

Sponsored Link

Please Pay What You Can to Support PCDN

Please consider Paying What You Can to help PCDN grow. We encourage you to consider any amount from $1 and up. Read the SUPPORT page prior to making a payment to see PCDN's impact and how your payment will help.

Sponsored Link

Translate This Page


PCDN Guidelines and Share Pages

By using this site you're agreeing to the terms of use as outlined in the community guidelines (in particular PCDN is an open network indexed by Google and users should review the privacy options). Please note individual requests for funding or jobs are NOT permitted on the network.

Click BELOW to share site resources Bookmark and Share
or Share on LINKEDIN




Latest Activity

Prof julien faustin NEPA NEPA is attending Dr. James Waller's event

2016 Summer Institute for Genocide Studies and Prevention at Keene State College (New Hampshire-US)

June 6, 2016 at 9am to June 10, 2016 at 12pm
2 hours ago
Craig Zelizer left a comment for Priya Verma
2 hours ago
Keith Johnson posted a blog post
2 hours ago
Daniel Conklin liked Viola Gienger's blog post Iraq Research: Sense of Injustice Is Key to Violent Extremism
3 hours ago
Priya Verma posted a status
"Congrats for our new website priya"
3 hours ago
Priya Verma posted a status
"Hi Craig . I will be attending the SXSW award function at Austin on 13 th and hope to see you there. . Thanks Priya."
3 hours ago
Profile IconProfessor Asif Ahmed, Marijn Sissingh, Lindsay Dworman and 3 more joined Peace and Collaborative Development Network
4 hours ago
Dr. James Waller's event was featured

2016 Summer Institute for Genocide Studies and Prevention at Keene State College (New Hampshire-US)

June 6, 2016 at 9am to June 10, 2016 at 12pm
4 hours ago

© 2016   Created by Craig Zelizer.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service