Getting To Know Us

Our program is unique, in the following ways:

  • Our program teaches students from Kindergarten through 12th Grade (K-12).
  • We have two professional teachers for each class, to meet the needs of the students and model the dance steps.
  • All students receive medals and engaged in the history, affect and styles of the four dances.
  • For virtual classes, students and teachers are Zooming in from the comfort of their homes and/or hybrid classrooms.
  • We have performed for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia Sixers, the Charity Ball (2009, 2010) and we were one of ten groups to dance at the Festival of Francis when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia.
  • We are now teaching students in schools in Philadelphia, PA, Lexington, KY and Los Angeles, CA.

Our History

Dancing with the Students began in 2005 at the Gesu School in Philadelphia, PA, with two classes of fifth graders.

At the end of the Week 10 Grand Finale, the students were asked, “What did you learn?” Three students’ hands went up.

A ten year old boy replied, “Respect for women.”

A ten year old girl replied, “I have more confidence.”

A ten year old girl replied, “I know how to waltz now!”

And just like that, Dancing with the Students was born. As we enter into our 18th year, thousands of students have danced their way into our hearts, in three different states, in close to 30 schools with no budget for the arts.

With the first artistic director, Samantha Readings, Dancing With The Students has developed into a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation that offers ballroom dance instruction to students in grades K-12, in various schools located in Philadelphia, PA, Lexington, KY and Los Angeles, CA. A 10-week program in Waltz, Swing, Tango, and Merengue is taught by qualified ballroom instructors with emphasis placed on “personal flare,” with each child bringing their own personality and style to each dance.

In 2009, Dancing with the Students Troupe was created. These high school students have performed at the Charity Ball at the Union League, at the Philadelphia 76ers games, and the Storybook Ball at the Please Touch Museum.

Our Teachers

Dancing with the Students would not be the success it is without the many gifted professional artists in our company. We have many award winner actors, dancers and choreographers in our dance family.

Susan Martinelli Shea
Susan Martinelli SheaPresident and Founder
K. O'Rourke
K. O'RourkeDirector of Programming / Lead Ballroom Dance Instructor
Kiersten M. Adams
Kiersten M. AdamsDance Instructor

Community Agreements

Inspired by the agreements devised by Drexel University Theater Department, and Bartol Foundation’s trauma-informed teaching arts educational programming, DWTS and its community, hereby recognizes this as a living draft of agreements, as of September 11th, 2022.

  • Stand tall, use good eye contact and make your partner feel special.
  • Take Pride in yourself and take care of one another.
  • Listen, Affirm, and Support.
  • Remember the first step in learning is asking a question.
  • Learn to uplift voices as opposed to speaking for them – learn to not speak on their behalf or presume to know someone else’s experience.
  • It’s acceptable to take care of your basic human needs during a session (water, bathroom, etc.)
  • Take pride in yourself and take care of one another. The work you do is valued and matters.
  • Hate Speech, bias language, racist comments, and microaggressions will not be tolerated.
  • Do your personal best – Understand that “your best” can look different day to day, and is unique to you.
  • This a collaborative process but an individual journey – allow dancers to learn at their own pace.
  • DWTS believes boundaries are an essential part of healthy relationships. We do not initiate any physical contact outside of what we learn in class. We only initiate closed dance position with consent.