Deborah Elias Danza Española
Fundraiser for Springboard for the Arts

Deborah Elias Danza Española Deborah is raising money for Springboard for the Arts.

Rhythm to Reading: Using Flamenco to Help New Students Learn English


That’s how many students are learning English for the first time in St. Paul Public Schools. They come from all over the globe – Southeast Asia, Central America, East Africa. Many are refugees, and have never attended school at all. To develop language skills comparable to their English-speaking peers, these students have lots to catch up on.

Rhythm to Reading is a new pilot project that uses flamenco to help students learn English. It is being developed in collaboration with teachers in St. Paul schools who specialize in working with English Language Learners. The pilot project seeks to develop unique activities that combine flamenco with language learning strategies, and discover which are most successful in helping students make progress in acquiring English skills. With the lessons learned, we hope to develop an approach that can be used with English Language Learners across the region.

Flamenco can help? How!

Flamenco is rhythm. Research shows that children who are more sensitive to musical rhythm are better able to recognize and break down the different sounds in words, one of the first steps in literacy. In fact, rhythmic ability predicts reading ability from grade 1 to 5! With its clapping and percussive footwork, flamenco embodies rhythm. Kids love to repeat and memorize patterns, or make up their own!

Flamenco is engaging. Flamenco’s energetic and playful nature draws students in. Students are able to connect with the teacher and each other in a way that doesn’t depend on spoken language.

Flamenco is success. All students are able to be successful learning flamenco. This sense of accomplishment is especially valuable for students who have a harder time being successful in the classroom.

You can help too!

We can't do it without you! Your donation will help:

  • Develop the Rhythm to Reading pilot: Through research and discussion with experts, we will develop the pilot project, experimenting with individual strategies and revising them, identifying the practices that are most promising in helping students learn.
  • Carry out and evaluate the pilot with students: We will work with 2nd grade English Language Learners at Linwood-Monroe Arts Plus school in St. Paul to implement the pilot project, carefully evaluating their response and changes in their English skills before, during, and after the pilot.
  • Fulfill one of our primary goals: For audiences and artists to experience, engage, learn, and connect through the passion of flamenco.    

We believe in the power of flamenco. Do you?


Connecting us with ourselves, our communities, and the world through the passion of flamenco. Now in its sixth year, Deborah Elias Danza Española has been making this vision a reality through its original performances, artist residencies in K-12 schools, and touring and teaching across Minnesota. You can be part of making this vision come true by supporting Rhythm to Reading.

Gracias! Thank you for supporting this exciting new work!

About Deborah Elias Danza Española

Our work is alive. Honoring tradition. Sometimes experimental. Always committed. We create FORMAL PERFORMANCES, both those that honor the traditions of flamenco, and those that explore the boundaries of the art form. We make them accessible, through affordable ticket prices and taking them on the road into greater Minnesota. We actively work in the schools, through ARTIST RESIDENCIES that share the flamenco art form and help kids succeed. Each year we work with at least six St. Paul schools, and reach over 500 students. We instigate the CORO FLAMENCO STREET CHOIR, a community ensemble that is part procession, part flash mob, and part sing-along. The only group of its kind in the U.S., we do an annual Flamenco Christmas Procession, and in 2016 our first Spring Procession (made possible with Knight Arts Challenge funding). We seek connections in all of the work we do - connections between artists, audiences, and beyond. Our activities over the last five years have brought the art of flamenco to more than 5,000 children and 2,000 adults, and engaged 20 artists, 11 arts organizations, 5 libraries and 25 schools.

To learn more about Deborah Elias Danza Española, see

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