"It's amazing that we're still here," says Shana Habel, arts advocate and dance advisor for the Los Angeles Unified School District. "The arts education branch of LAUSD has a lot of support for what we're doing, but that support can't always translate into funding, because the money's just not there. I tell teachers that the best advocacy we can do is to teach well."
In a city better known for Hollywood films than concert dance, the struggle to find funding for dance education probably doesn't come as a surprise. In spite of this, dance thrives in L.A. public schools, due in large part to Habel, the district's fervent champion for dance. As dance advisor for the second-largest school district in the country, Habel supports teachers in providing high-quality dance education and has advocated for the role of dance in a comprehensive K–12 program since her appointment in 2006. "I feel that I have this great opportunity to carry on the tradition in dance education that honors the philosophy that dance is for everyone," she says. Because of Habel's curriculum and professional-development initiatives and her unwavering support for the teachers she oversees, LAUSD stands out as a model for K–12 dance education nationwide.