Andrea Ziegelman danced in her youth and studied ballet in college, but it took a back seat when she became a lawyer. Years later, she picked it up again by taking ballet classes as an adult at Ballet Arts. It was there, talking to other dancers, that she formed the idea for Accent Dance NYC.
Accent Dance is a dance advocacy charity for kids in lower income neighborhoods in New York City. Ziegelman, a Pelham resident, started Accent Dance in 2018, operating out of her parents’ charity, the Erwin and Isabelle Ziegelman Foundation, which was founded in 1988. Ziegelman was born in Detroit and moved to Pelham in 2003, when her two kids were in kindergarten and second grade. As a lawyer, Ziegelman practices family law and has long been passionate about the arts.
“It’s important to advocate for people who don’t have the same opportunities,” Ziegelman said.
Accent Dance helps kids get the best possible dance experiences in school. Through a curriculum created by the charity, its faculty go into schools twice a week to teach kids about the importance of dance. The charity runs seminars to instruct in the importance of dance, teamwork, expression and passion through units on salsa, hip hop, tango and ballet. Ziegelman said the faculty and students form bonds like family.
“It’s a community where they can feel safe,” she said.
In some of the schools the organization works, more than 40% of the students live in shelters or non-permanent housing. According to Ziegelman, Accent Dance gives them “the benefit of experienced instructors. It’s given (the instructors) an option to work with kids and expand their talents to teach.”
Through Accent Dance, kids are able to be passionate about dance and express themselves through their culture and community. It provides a self confidence boost and sparks creativity.
Ziegelman said she believes that this world needs everyone to find something that they can advocate for and be passionate about.
“It’s very important to spread the word to make what we do possible,” she said.