This year, July Fourth Independence Day serves as a breakthrough moment in the nation's recovery with new meaning as the nation returns to normalcy after 16 months of coronavirus pandemic disruption. Skylines across the nation will pop in spectacular colors in celebration of America’s frontline heroes and the resilient spirit within us all.
In this issue we highlight a nonprofit founded 25 years ago by a woman who is "Making A Difference" (MAD), transforming the lives of young girls from NYC low-income communities through free dance performance programs. Performances are aired live on the Today Show, giving the girls a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Written by Pat Craddick
Abigail Rosin McCreath
Executive Director / Founder
In 1996, Abigail Rosin McCreath launched Groove With Me, a 501(c)3 nonprofit youth development organization offering free dance classes and performance opportunities to instill in young women the leadership, pride, creativity, joy and discipline needed to confront the adversity in their daily lives and throughout their future development.
Based in Harlem New York, the award-winning nonprofit provides 42 free weekly dance classes to 260 girls ages 4-18 in the winter and 14 classes for 110 girls in the summer. Classes are offered in ballet, tap, jazz, theater jazz, contemporary, hip hop, Latin Fusion, Polynesian, Masala Bhangra, Afro-Beat, Bachata/Salsa, modern, and creative movement.
Over the last 25 years, Groove With Me has impacted over 3000 girls in a sustained way with weekly dance classes.
“After moving to Providence, RI for college, my understanding of women’s health, safety, and empowerment grew exponentially,” says Ms. McCreath. Driven by passion to help, she worked in a women’s health collective, answering phone calls from domestic abuse victims and volunteered in a women’s prison. “These women wanted to live better lives, but felt alone,” says Ms. McCreath. “They didn’t know that there were people who could help them and didn’t know that they weren’t bad people; keeping in mind that around this time, 90% of all women in prison were there for non-violent crimes: holding drugs, prostitution, or fraud” she added.
Upon graduating college, Ms. McCreath applied for jobs in women’s health and youth development on the East and West Coast, eager to continue showing up for women and girls. “Two-thirds of the jobs required fluency in Spanish, so I went to Costa Rica to learn Spanish and found myself training in dance four hours a day. It was an “aha!” moment: I just put the two together! What if I opened a dance studio as a safe haven for girls to feel great about themselves and have extra adults in their life to turn to?” Ms. McCreath says. After that “aha!” moment she came back to NY and started studying how to start a non-profit.
Ms. McCreath radiates a good-natured intensity, and she has treated her professional trajectory with laser focus – though the path she carved had a few detours. “The first Groove With Me classes took place on the Lower East Side in borrowed spaces like the back of a restaurant, rehearsal spaces, the New York Society for the Deaf, and the cafeteria of a school” says Ms. McCreath. “My kitchen cabinets were full of tap shoes which I lugged in a bag to class along with a boom box. Our first recital was in a garden on 6th Street and Avenue B in June of 1996, 25 years ago” she added.
Although from a privileged upbringing Ms. McCreath believes that no teenager is exempt from low self-esteem and self-destructive behaviors. “In high school, I only felt happy when doing musical theater or dance. I was a great dancer and choreographer and leaned into these activities as my outlet,” says Ms. McCreath. “I had friends in other crowds, but only felt true belonging and inclusion within the theater company. One day, my acting teacher invited me into his office after reading my acting journal and said, “What’s going on? I can see in your writing that you’re unhappy.” There was an adult who noticed I was in trouble and it’s because of this experience that I became passionate about helping girls, as I was helped,” she reminiscently added.
Groove With Me found its long-term home in East Harlem, a neighborhood in which parents may not have the means to afford or the ability to bring their children to dance classes. The organization serves as a home away from home, right in the heart of the neighborhood. It’s a space where girls can feel successful and express themselves honestly; and a community where adults can be there for girls and serve as additional eyes and ears, confidantes, and role models.
This past year, COVID had an outsized impact on their home and communities in East Harlem and the South Bronx. Racial unrest tested the social fabric of their communities’ identity. A dance studio offers an access point to their exploration of the people and worlds around them, ensuring their ability to lean into both their diversity and that of their surroundings and express themselves while discovering their capacities in a healthy environment.
Please support Groove With Me and help build its general operating capacity with more teachers, a larger space, additional staff, and increased funding sources.
Email POP Social Enterprise to find out how you can partner with us to support this nonprofit.
Visit Groove With Me to learn more and inquire how to help them directly.
Donate directly to this nonprofit.