Jump for Joy at Dance Center Evanston

Everyone deserves a chance to dance. And with Jump for Joy, everyone gets one.

You’d expect a place like Dance Center Evanston (DCE) to be experts in their field, and they are. But it’s their love for dance—and that of their students—that has created a magical program for children with special needs.

Jump For Joy is a free program which pairs children with disabilities with many of the advanced teen dancers. The talented teens, who are part of DCE’s Evanston Dance Ensemble, help special needs children, ages 5–14, dance with remarkable levels of structure, creativity and self-expression.

Seven weeks of classes culminate with a final performance that is a highlight for everyone involved. The children develop new skills and confidence, as well as new friends. Their parents, who spend seven weeks visiting together outside the dance studios, form new friendships and unofficial support circles too. Some of the children even “graduate” into regular dance classes!

This free program is a winner for all connected to it. Win for special needs children. Win for their parents. Win for the DCE teen dancers. And a win for our community—free programming that offers residents inclusive opportunities and the ability to feel belonging where they live.


“It’s just as beneficial for the teens doing the teaching as it is for the class,” explains Jump For Joy faculty mentor Jenny Higgins. “We talk about the program and cry. When the time comes for the final performance, you feel so joyful.”

Ensemble dancer Julia DeNardo started Jump For Joy in 2007 as her Evanston Township High School senior project. DeNardo is now at Northwestern University, but the program continued at DCE and is so successful that a second class was added. DeNardo still returns for performances when her schedule permits.

Here’s your chance to help everyone dance: Jump For Joy is one of many programs funded by proceeds from the annual DCE benefit on February 2, which will be emceed by comedienne, author, DCE parent and former Saturday Night Live star Julia Sweeney. Find more information or buy tickets here.


Make It Better is proud to be the Media Sponsor of this event.