"CityStep awoke and nurtured in me something that has grown strong and healthy: it made me want to perform. I am still trying to find the CityStep for adults."
--Casey Affleck, actor and former CityStep kid
Below is where you can find all the basics about who we are and what we do! Interested in learning more? Read a note from our founder to get a sense of CityStep's vision and values as far back as 1983! You can also get the inside scoop on the CityStep curriculum, learn about the structure of the undergraduate company, brush up on the history of the organization, and read all about the end-of-the-year show. It's hard to get a true sense of CityStep's incredible energy and spirit without seeing a performance, attending a rehearsal—or even just asking someone involved with the program about his or her experiences. If you're interested in hearing even more, send us an email... and if you're inspired, please get in touch to find out how you can get involved!
What is CityStep?
CityStep is a unique organization run entirely by undergraduates that introduces public school youth to the performing arts as an outlet for creative self-expression, a tool for building self-esteem, and a means to mutual understanding.
CityStep was founded in 1983 in Cambridge, MA, by then-Harvard undergraduate Sabrina Peck, '84. Today the program is one of the largest student organizations on Harvard's campus: approximately 75 undergraduates work together to serve over 100 Cambridge public school children annually.
In 2004, CityStep began at the University of Pennsylvania. It started out as an organization of 15 undergraduate teachers going into two classrooms and one afterschool program. Today, more than 40 undergraduates work together as teachers, producers, and executive directors. CityStep is in five classrooms in four different public schools in West Philadelphia, and we are growing!
Through a year-long, in-school dance-theater, CityStep offers students a valuable creative supplement to their traditional education. Each week, teams of five to six undergraduate Penn students travel to local schools to teach and mentor middle school children, reaching them during their critical pre-teen years when tools for strengthening self-expression and self-esteem are crucial. Entire classrooms participate—children are not individually pre-selected based on talent or inclination, and they do not volunteer to get involved. CityStep becomes part of their weekly curriculum. The middle school and college students work together to challenge themselves and each other in a mutually enriching collaborative relationship. The program fosters creativity and self-expression, teamwork and support. Each year's partnership culminates in a completely original and thematically relevant dance-theater performance that all participants help to create, bringing together parents and teachers, peers and professors, citizens and local leaders in an outpouring of community support.
CityStep provides the opportunity for public school youth to...
• LEARN new skills and discover latent talents in dance, choreography, acting, improvisation, performance, and more.
• DEVELOP new bonds with classmates while working together towards a common goal, learning in the process to respect each other's points of view.
• EXPERIENCE their ideas and contributions as important as they participate fully in the creation of the final performance.
• FORGE meaningful and lasting relationships with undergraduate role models, who make college and success in life seem accessible.
• ENJOY the support of friends and family, classroom and community, as they bring focused and sustained efforts to fruition.
CityStep provides the opportunity for college undergraduates to...
• REACH OUT beyond campus walls to learn from and make a difference in the local community.
• TAKE ON leadership positions of real responsibility in a complex and self-sufficient organization—doing everything from running a classroom to running a nonprofit.
• WORK WITH a diverse group of fellow students and local youth from different backgrounds and with different interests towards a common goal.
• TEAM UP with other performers, musicians, composers, dancers, actors, choreographers, and designers working at a high level of artistic expression.