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NYer Of The Week: Maria Torres' Foundation Helps Apply Dance To Academics

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Motivating students at school can be hard, but this week's New Yorker is showing them that a little bit of movement can help build confidence in the classroom and in life. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.

Lights, cameras and costumes aside, Maria Torres has always just loved to dance.

"My mom was crying hysterical trying to find me and she hears people clapping and applauding, and it's me doing my thing at 1 years old," Torres says. "So she said, 'I knew then that you really wanted to do that.'"

Maria went on to have a successful career as a dancer, choreographer and director. But it wasn’t easy.

"I had it hard. I was not a dancer looking. I was not black enough, not white enough, not enough, not enough, not enough," she says. "Everyone told me I wasn't going to make it."

Determination and hard work helped her get where she is today, and that's the lesson she's teaching students in Harlem through the Maria Torres Emerging Artists Foundation.

It's an educational performing arts program that gives students the opportunity to learn dance moves, and math.

"I feel after school is the place to have those after-school activities, and you can apply it to the actual academics," says John Reddick, co-founder of the Harlem Link School. "You think about dance, you've got a tempo and a beat. You do it, two plus two is four, that’s the theory, but to do that beat, 'boom boom boom,' then you feel it more."

"It's important that all of us take responsibility as individuals to allow these kids to have hope, and that these kids have a sense of happiness and a sense of release," Torres says. "Because when you do have that, then you can excel to become a better person, and you can become confident enough to want to do other things."

For students like Abelardo Fulgencio, that happiness comes from not being afraid to make mistakes.

"My family, they always love to dance, but I never get to dance. I always have to be the one to watch them because I am so embarrassed that people will laugh at me," Fulgencio says. "I want to be up on stage and dance too."

So, for motivating students through movement and mentorship, Maria Torres is our New Yorker of the Week.

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