Gesu School Dances at World Meeting of Families

The Dancing with the Students program at Gesu School in Philadelphia was asked by the World Meeting of Families to perform as part of the Festival of Families during Pope Francis’ visit. Forty students from both the seventh and eighth grade performed for an audience of approximately 100,000. They danced the tango, Pope Francis’ favorite dance, to “La Cumparista,” and also danced the swing to “American Bandstand,” for a Philadelphia flavor. They had rehearsed daily for about 3 weeks and learned two new dances by Instructor/Choreographer, Jenn Rose.

Gesu School performs the swing to “American Bandstand” on the Logan Square Stage at the World Meeting of Families 2015.

 The Dancing with the Students program was launched 10 years ago at Gesu School by Susan Martinelli Shea, President and Founder, and also a Gesu School Trustee. Ms. Martinelli Shea is also a graduate of Boston College and Chairman of Mission and Character and the new Secretary of the Board of Trustees of Boston College. The program teaches ballroom dancing in 14 inner-city schools in the Philadelphia region. Students develop not only a love for dance and skills in tango, meringue, swing, and waltz, but also life skills such as manners, respect, teamwork, and confidence. “God led me to inner-city Philadelphia and Gesu School," said Shea. "I started my non-profit ballroom dancing program, Dancing with the Students, at Gesu School in 2005 to enhance the arts program. It is the best thing I have ever done. I am still very close to the first Gesu School students that we taught. They are now juniors in college. I will always be there for them. Whatever I have offered to them, they have given me more in return.”

Gesu School eighth graders with Susan Martinelli Shea, President and Founder of Dancing with the Students. 

Bryan Carter, President and CEO or Gesu School commented, “The nation and the world witnessed a group of skilled, poised and confident young people perform the tango, Pope Francis’ favorite dance, and the swing. I enjoyed watching the smiles on the faces of the children as they performed the swing. They were having fun.”

Here are some quotes from the students who participated:

What students have learned through Dancing with the Students in addition to skills in dance:

“I learned to work as a better teammate.”  Isaiah, Grade 8

“I learned to how to cooperate with more people as a team. I also learned how to communicate with gentlemen.” Diamond, Grade 8

“I learned how to be more mature and polite to women.” Nadir, Grade 8

What students admire about Pope Francis and his message to others:

“That he is the first Pope to be a Jesuit priest. His message to others is to love others as they want to be treated.” Cierra, Grade 8

“I admire his message about treating people the same, no matter how different they are.” Isaiah, Grade 8

“I admire how Pope Francis is the first Jesuit Pope and how he took time out of his daily life to visit Philadelphia.” Diamond, Grade 8

How students felt performing for such a large audience at the Festival of Families during Pope Francis’ visit:

“I was excited and I felt honored because my school was one of the chosen schools to perform.” Cierra, Grade 8

“I felt very excited to perform my skills in front of 100,000 people. It was a great experience to perform for my school.” Nadir, Grade 8

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