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Paying it Forward: Stephanie Jojokian and Amber Yancey


Mar. 17, 2017 Professional Athletes Foundation

By Jim Gehman

“We started it because as dancers, we had both danced in New York City and taken classes in L.A., and we just felt like when artists came here, the D.C. dance team was not taken very seriously,” Jojokian said. “We also knew a lot of people can’t afford to travel and get elite training. So we started by having a concert where all ages, all body shapes, where D.C. dancers could get selected by these different choreographers from New York, L.A., Miami, to perform in a concert. 

“That would help elevate our training once these artists create their own work and they take the dancers more seriously and they train them. It’s a better experience rather than just taking a master class. We wanted to make it more meaningful experience for everybody involved.”

Since it began, several hundred people, from five-year-olds to those in their 50s, have participated by taking classes, being involved in the outreach program or taking the stage in the Capitol Movement Dance Project Concerts. 

CMI’s mission is to build better lives through dance. 

“We do that by setting goals for people to achieve, teaching them the importance of dance. Physical activity is training your mind, your body. Teamwork, giving back. It’s super important,” Jojokian said.

“There’s no competition. It’s all about working together. It’s important for our adults and our pre-professional young dancers to mentor the younger dancers. Basically dance is what catapults people into achieving their dreams. Whether it is to dance. Or whether it is to be a teacher. Or whether it is just to be a better citizen. Dance is what we use as our motivator, as our tool.

“We’ve been around for so long now, we’ve watched kids go through our program and get scholarships to schools because of dance. One in particular is working with us again in a different capacity, she’s working with me coaching a dance team and then she’s also working in the public school system in Baltimore. Another one that grew up with us is out in L.A. dancing with Gwen Stefani and teaching master classes. It’s just amazing, the things that they’re doing. Others are graduating from school and starting careers and being motivated to help. I’ve watched them start their own dance clubs, which is fantastic.”

The popular and successful classes and programs that CMI offer are partially-supported through contributions, sponsorships, fundraising events and grants such as those given by PAF.

“If people can’t pay to be a part of our program although we have very, very reduced rate tuitions, then they don’t pay,” Jojokian said. “We still want them to be able to dance. And we wouldn’t be able to do that without that help.”        

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