Former Client of Legal Aid’s Community Development Project Appears on Today show

Dance Project of Washington Heights (DPWH) — a New York not-for-profit whose mission is to “remove barriers to dance education and to build community through dance” — appeared on the Today show in a segment demonstrating The Legal Aid Society’s ability to strengthen underprivileged communities throughout the city.

In 2014, Heather Godfrey, the co-founder and executive director of DPWH, requested assistance from The Legal Aid Society in setting up the non-profit. Jacques David, a staff attorney with the Community Development Project, assisted DPWH with entity formation, the drafting of bylaws and other internal policies, obtaining state and federal tax exemption, and registration with the Charities Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

Justin Joseph D’Elia, an associate at Duane Morris LLP, provided further pro bono assistance. He drafted various form agreements, including a student contract, a permission-to-use agreement for dance studio rentals, a dance shoe rental agreement, and an independent contractor agreement. Duane Morris also provided counsel on the use of musical works by the client for classroom instruction and dance recitals.

The dance school, which is located at the United Palace, serves over 700 students of different ages, backgrounds, cultures and socio-economic statuses. Parents are asked to pay what they can afford.

  • 55% of DPWH students are low-income by NYC standards and at least 36% are considered extremely low-income
  • 65% of DPWH students identify as Latinx, and 45% identify as Black
  • 335 students have returned from our previous semester, and 223 current students were also enrolled in our 2017/2018 year
  • 65 students have advanced to a level 2 of ballet instruction, and there are 31 students enrolled in ballet level 3
  • 143 students take 2 classes per week, 35 are enrolled in 3 classes per week, and 10 students take 4 different classes per week
  • 104 current students are boys

This case illustrates the way in which the Community Development Project contributes to the preservation of low-income communities affected by displacement and change.