Pagan Non-Profit Helps At-Risk Teens Through Dance

Cara Schulz —  November 13, 2014 — 16 Comments

Minneapolis Witch Tasha-Rose knows the power of belly dance and how it can transform. She’s hoping to use that transformational energy to help at-risk girls break the poverty cycle through the empowerment found in learning a cooperative dance style know as American Tribal Style belly dance. To achieve this goal, Tasha-Rose has formed a group called Our Dancing Daughters and is seeking funding for a larger studio space and for scholarships for young women in need.

Tasha-Rose instructs students at the Kamala Chaand dance studio. [courtesy photo]

Tasha-Rose instructs students at the Kamala Chaand dance studio. [courtesy photo]

Although Our Dancing Daughters hasn’t officially launched yet, the group hopes to start taking scholarship applications in January. While they received their Minnesota non-profit status as of Nov. 2, they are currently taking the needed steps to achieve 501c3 status in order to be eligible for more grant opportunities. In the meantime, Tasha-Rose, who is also the troupe leader for Kamala Chaand Dance Company, turns to crowdfunding to raise the initial funds needed to launch the program.

While Our Dancing Daughters is not a religious organization, Tasha-Rose is assisted by a board made up all Pagans and Witches. Board members include LaDonna Bartol, Laurie “Remedy” Howard, Breana Larson, and Becky Munson, with Tasha-Rose as the Executive Director.

So far they have raised $1,314 of their $10,000 goal on their GoFundMe site. Stacie Braford, who made a donation to Our Dancing Daughters, says, “This is an awesome thing you are doing! Love it. I wish we’d had access to something like this when I was young.”

The Wild Hunt talked to Tasha-Rose about her plans for Our Dancing Daughters, how her Pagan ethics guides her in this project, and why she believes this could be a valuable resource for at-risk teen girls.

Our Dancing Daughter's Executive Director Tasha-Rose

Our Dancing Daughter’s Executive Director Tasha-Rose

Cara Schulz: Why did you start Our Dancing Daughters? What was the inspiration?

Tasha-Rose: Our Dancing Daughters is a concept I have had for a lot of years. I have daughters and it initially started as a way to get daughters dancing with their mothers. Slowly it evolved in concept to where we are now.

CS: How will Our Dancing Daughters have a positive impact on at-risk young women?

TR: Our Dancing Daughters is designed to teach young women to dance cooperatively using the American Tribal Style format that I and two of my troupe mates are certified in. There is so much emphasis put on at-risk youth that they are on their own. We want them to learn interdependence. Additionally we are all taking crisis intervention training eventually, in order to better mentor these girls. Other components will be financial literacy, education accountability and getting into college. We hope to team up with other groups on occasion as well, namely The Emily Project, for education on healthy body image.

CS: Paganism and non-western styles of dance seem to go together. Why do yo think that is?

TR: I think it has a lot to do with the ability to trance out in this dance form. In ATS you have to be in the moment and communicating with the others dancers. That in itself is a form of trance I feel.

CS: How do your religious ethics come into play with this effort?

TR: My religious ethics have everything to do with this. I believe firmly in helping people to achieve their greatest self whenever possible. It can sound selfish I suppose, like I’m seeking accolades, but really I’m not. Self-empowerment comes from oneself. No one can do that work for anyone else, though I believe it’s each of our duties to be instrumental in the lives following ours, to make for a better world. Altruistic? Maybe. But I do what I can anyway.

CS: Who is Our Dancing Daughters open to and how will you assess eligibility for scholarships?

TR: We will open our applications up to anyone who wants to apply. There will be some focus on family income, since this program is in part focused on breaking the poverty cycle through empowerment. We will also be asking for teacher recommendations, hold a panel interview and ask that they write an essay for us. It isn’t necessarily only about those of limited financial means, however. There are young ladies from wealthier families who may not have involved parents and are suffering. We want to reach them, too.

CS: How long is your funding effort going on? How are the grant seeking efforts going?

TR: We have been working on raising funds for about 4 months now. We are just over 10% funded. We don’t have to raise the whole of it though, which is nice. Our grant research has opened lots of doors for us.There are lots of people who love to give money to projects like ours. We have two of our Executive Board going to a grant information meeting tonight in fact.

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Tasha-Rose says the organization is at a major crossroads right now. Next week they have the opportunity, through the East Side Arts Council, to get into Washington High School to teach American Trial Style dance for a week. Tasha says, “It’s a really big foot in the door that we are all really excited about.”

Cara Schulz

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Cara Schulz is a journalist and author living in Minnesota with her husband and cat. She has previously written for PAGAN+politics, PNC-Minnesota, and Patheos. Her work has appeared in several books by Bibliotheca Alexandrina and she's the author of Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping and (Almost) Foolproof Mead Making. She loves red wine, camping, and has no tattoos.