Dance changes lives. We have seen it happen.
Interview with Aurélia Sellier, Founder and President of „The What Dance Can Do Project“ in September 2020.
I just wanted to give you a quick update for 2021 as COVID did not totally stop this non-profit organization although some projects obviously had to be put on hold. New activities happened last year in New Zealand (primary school), Morocco (orphanage), Paris (hospital Necker and young migrants).
This year THE WHAT DANCE CAN DO PROJECT started weekly ballet classes for underprivileged children in Tunis Tunisia. Also they will launch in June a partnership with a new hospital in Paris, George Pompidou. In Fall Aurélia Sellier hopes to be able to resume her work with Kinderspital in Zurich, a hospital in Bruxelles and hopefully start projects in the UK, perhaps with the Royal Ballet in London. This organization was recognized of public interest in Switzerland (all donations are deductible) and now is in the process of registering in France and New Zealand.
Tell me about „The What Dance Can Do Project“.
We fund dance programs and events for children and young adults made vulnerable by illness, poverty or exile. We also aim to celebrate the power of dance by sharing the stories of dancers, and encourage the work of people who use their art to make the world a better place.
I founded this international Switzerland-based non-profit organization in 2018. It’s run by a team of volunteers, based in Zurich, Paris, Brussels and Wellington. Our first destination was the township of Gugulethu near Cape Town, where we collected stories of the teacher, dancer and social entrepreneur Theo NDindwa and his students and made photographs. Photography is an important medium for us, and we had our work, text by me and images by the photographer Selina Meier exhibited in Copenhagen thanks to The Royal Danish Ballet.
Our first goal is to organize dance classes and performances for kids who would not have access to such opportunities otherwise. We have a team of some of the best dancers in the world teaching children and young adults who are vulnerable to terrible things which can happen in life, such as illness, exile, poverty or disability.
Secondly, we advocate for dance as a spark for change and share the stories of dancers, how their lives were impacted by dance and what they hope their art brings to their audience.
What can dance do? Tell me about the benefits of dancing.
We believe dance changes lives – why does it? Dance is considered as nice to have, but it is more – dance is an investment rather than a cost. An investment in the future of children. Why? Taking dance classes builds up skills and characteristics that one can transfer to any area of one’s life: work of the mind and of the body i.e. gaining muscle, coordination, body awareness, memorization. You learn team workand collaboration, and have to be fully present.
Dancing improves brain function and boosts memory. Several studies have shown that dancing reduces risk of dementia and Alzheimer. The discipline and energy you gain in a dance class can be used at school and in a future profession. It’s a fact that young dancers perform better at school.
Moreover, dance is an inclusive activity – no difference, any skin color, any language, any part of society – it’s for everyone.
What projects are going on?
Currently most of our initiatives are on hold because of the international context.
- We have organized dance workshops in the impoverished neighborhood of Kibera in Kenya, together with the local organization Anno’s Africa.
- We are creating a dance piece with young migrants in exile in Paris.
- We partner with the Necker Hospital in Paris and Kinderspital in Zürich where dancers perform for young patients and their parents.
- We are collaborating with Akram Khan Company for their „Animal Kingdom“ project and just had our first workshops taking place in an elementary school in Wellington, New Zealand.
- Of course, we are very busy looking for institutional and private sponsors to give more kids the opportunity to join summer classes: right now we are looking for funds to help talented kids from a ballet school in a slum of Lagos, Nigeria, to come study in Europe.
- In 2019, we organized our first gala in Zurich, where some of our ambassadors gathered on stage.
- We are planning several collaborations, projects and events for 2021: in Morocco, UK and Belgium.
Dance event at the Necker Hospital in Paris
We’VE got the best dancers teaching kids – They deserve the best!
More information on their website
Learn more about our action and support us! https://www.ulule.com/wdcd-project/
Fotos of the Gala in Zürich at Hotel Widder in December 2019
Photo on Top © James Bort
CV of Aurélia Sellier
FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT
French from origin, Aurélia lives in Zurich where she has worked in various roles for large multinational companies, mostly in the field of leadership and organization development.
Initially from a Literature and Business academic background, a career break gave her the opportunity to make a dream come true: bring an artistic and philanthropic project to life. Passionate about dance, the topic came to her very naturally.
“The What Dance Can Do Project was born from the belief that dance can change lives. And that more people should know about it. We want to celebrate the power of dance by sharing the stories of dancers, and encourage the work of people who use their art to make the world a better place.”
See Header Image © Marie Faucon