How DanceLogic in Philadelphia Blends Dance and Coding to Introduce Girls to STEAM Careers

March 7, 2023

Dance and coding may seem like polar opposites, but they also have a lot in common, making them a surprisingly complementary pair. Launched in 2018, danceLogic blends the two to introduce girls to coding and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). The Philadelphia-based program is the brainchild of Franklyn Athias, a retired Comcast executive, and Betty Lindley, executive­ director of the nonprofit West Park Cultural Center. DanceLogic came into being after Athias, who was volunteering to teach coding classes for children at a local church, was frustrated by the lack of interest. He met with Lindley, who suggested using dance as a catalyst to get girls, particularly those of color—among the least represented in STEM careers—on board. Now running annually October through June, danceLogic ends with a performance at the West Park Arts Fest. Weekly classes devote an hour and 20 minutes to dance and an hour to coding. One of the program’s first participants, Lindley notes, is now applying for college, where she plans to study computer science. Natasha Truitt, a dance instructor for danceLogic, spoke about the intersection of the two disciplines.  

female students sitting around a table working on iPads
Students code their own programs during the coding portion of a danceLogic class. Photo by Niesha Kennedy, Courtesy danceLogic.

The students focus on learning the coding methods from beginner to advanced level. Most participants are young girls between the ages of 10 to 18. With their knowledge and experience of the coding methods, the students create choreography and dance techniques.

During one of our recent classes, the girls were assigned to create a dance based off their knowledge and progress of the coding techniques. The coding suggestions were written on the board, and then we assembled the codes into actual choreography.

An example would be “move forward, toggle switch,” and the choreography entailed this demonstration. The girls had the opportunity to perform their creative code dance number for their parents during our midterm presentation.

DanceLogic is a fantastic oppor­tunity for young girls to learn about the art of STEM and how it connects to creativity and the world of dance. I find the program valuable to the youth in giving them a mindset of their future goals and how they can be both professional and creative in their career.

Muscle Memory

“Learning something like dance requires practice, just like coding. The dance is more physical, but it requires the students to try, fail and try again,” says Franklyn Athias, co-founder of danceLogic. “Before long, the muscle memory kicks in and the student forgets how hard it was before. Coding is the same thing. Learning the syntax of coding is not a natural thing. Repetition is what makes you good at it. After learning the first programming language, the students can learn other programming languages because it becomes much easier.”