"Participation at an early age in the activity of dance is widely recognized as an important element in the development of a child's creative skills and abilities.  It promotes self-expression, poise and confidence, and sharing a love dance."

Dance-Aid was established by Caroline Varney in 1994 in Cape Town, South Africa.  Supported by grants and corporate funding, Dance-Aid offered dance classes to children living in orphanages.  These classes gave the children a much-needed outlet for their creative expression, assisting in the heading of formerly deprived, neglected or abandoned children.  Dance was for them a powerful and uplifting medium.

Dance-Aid South Africa
Ms Varney teaching orphans in Cape Town, South Africa, 1994.

After moving to the USA, Ms Varney registered Dance-Aid as a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization in 2006.  In association with her commercial dance Studio, the Academy of Dance, located in Biddeford, Maine, Dance-Aid provides dance scholarships to children throughout York County, ME.  Dance-Aid's philosophy since its inception in Africa is that dance should be accessible to all, regardless of financial ability: no child is turned away.  

Memorial Day Parade 2014
Studio Outreach Parade, Memorial Day 2014

In the USA, Dance-Aid has always been self-funding.  Through a variety of fundraising events, students and staff of the Academy of Dance have helped to fund Dance-Aid's Scholarship Program.  Here is a list of some of our fundraising events:
  • 50/50 raffle at the Academy of Dance Spring Recital
  • student-led raffle ticket sale before the annual Holiday Show
  • annual bottle drive
  • "flamingo flocking"
Bottle Drive, 2012  Flamingos on Lawn, 2014
Student-Led Bottle Drive, 2012                                            Tutu-clad Flamingos ready for 'Flocking', 2014

Dance-Aid actively publicizes its Scholarship program in local communities.  In the 2014-2015 school year, over 7,000 flyers were taken home by children in local school systems, outlining our program and inviting them to apply for a Dance Scholarship.  We also participate regularly at local community events, where we have free games for children, candy giveaways, information and pamphlets, and drawings for free dance classes.  Our annual event commitments include:
  • Biddeford's Chalk on the Walk / River Jam Festival
  • Saco Spirit's Pumpkin Harvest Festival 
  • Kennebunk's Harvest Fest
  • Northern York County YMCA's Trunk or Treat Halloween Festival
Information booth and games at Community Event, 2014
Information booth and prize wheel at community event, Biddeford, 2014

Thanks to the ongoing marketing of our Scholarship program, the great economic hardship and financial need of surrounding communities, and our philosophy of no child is turned away, there is a great demand for financial help through our program. In the 2014-2015 season alone we have already received over 55 requests for financial help,  equivalent to over $17,000 in tuition costs annually.  

Dance-Aid offers partial scholarships to most of the applicants for financial help.  Although we do extensive fundraising for the program (as described above), there is a shortfall between the income received from fundraising activities and the amount of scholarship aid that is offered.  The Academy of Dance covers the difference in funding, however, this severely limits the amount of scholarship funding we're able to offer.  While we're able to offer scholarships to cover part (or all in exceptional circumstances) of a student's tuition, we need to be able to offer help to cover the other common expenses associated with dance:
  • shoes and dancewear
  • recital costumes
  • competition entry fees
  • tickets to shows and performances
We have recognized the need for extending our external fundraising activities.  Our goal for fundraising in the future is twofold: to increase the funding made available to our students through our Scholarship program, and to improve the facilities where our program is offered.  The Academy of Dance celebrates its 13th year as Biddeford's premiere Dance Studio in the 2016-2017 season.  The facilities have expanded to meet growing student numbers over the years, however, student numbers have now grown so much that the current premises have reached their capacity limit.  Classes are full, and the schedule takes up all available time slots in weekday afternoons and evenings, and weekend days.  To be able to continue expanding at the current rate and be able to offer a quality program going forward, new premises are needed.

To support our Scholarship Program and our need for new premises, both funding for core expenses and capital grants are needed.  Dance-Aid is actively looking for 3rd party support.