Maja + Debra Giunta
Design Dance is a community-based dance education company partnering with schools and community spaces throughout the Chicagoland area. With a focus on social-emotional learning standards, Design Dance aims to teach courage, connection, and self-awareness to Pk-12 students through sliding scale programs.
Debra Giunta is the Founder of Design Dance. Design Dance is a community-based dance education company partnering with schools and community spaces throughout the Chicagoland area. With a focus on social-emotional learning standards, Design Dance aims to teach courage, connection, and self-awareness to Pk-12 students through sliding scale programs.
Maja Jovicic was able to interview Debra Giunta during her participation in the World Chicago program.
What inspired/motivated you to set up your business?
I grew up dancing from the time I was 3 years old in a very traditional dance setting, focused on technical advancement and competition scores. While I feel grateful for the skills I learned from that style of dance education such as dedication, mastery, performance, when I began teaching dance myself, I enjoyed the opportunity to explore the more emotional benefits of dance for my students as well such as storytelling, body-positive physical awareness, community building. After teaching for over 10 years, I was inspired to build an educational environment driven by these values. Once I began teaching dance in schools, I recognized that teaching outside of the traditional studio setting was the perfect environment to explore these objectives without the pressure to prepare students for the professional dance world. Today, we view Design Dance as an experience designed to teach the social-emotional skills necessary to flourish in life and, for our students interested in pursuing a professional career, we’re happy to refer them to the many pre-professional programs available in Chicago.
You put a lot of stock in creativity. How does your everyday work impact the creativity of yourself and others?
I do believe that creativity is a core driver of change and an essential skill for living a happy and sustainable life. The programs we offer in our schools are designed to inspire student voice and engage them in the creative process. Additionally, we strive to build an internal team culture that is inherently entrepreneurial with each team member having the opportunity to develop systems for change, contribute their unique perspective on our mission and vision and apply and participate in the many ways the creative process can drive business and impact growth.
What would you consider your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge is maintaining consistent quality in a business with many variables outside our control. Design Dance sees roughly 2000 students per school year across 100+ classes per week. Each of our sites has a unique set of space needs, interpersonal relationships to manage and logistical details to oversee. Additionally, our team of 45 teaching artists are the main representative of our product and are responsible for ensuring that our mission and impact are being carried out each week in our classes. As we continue to see growth in our program, we are always exploring ways to automate operational processes to create more time to deepen the relationships we have with all of our stakeholders.
What keeps you going?
I’m lucky to have a job that has built in opportunities for inspiration. My team inspires me daily through their passion for the work, alternative perspectives and ability to seamlessly collaborate to solve problems. I’m inspired by our students when I see the growth they’re able to experience over the course of our programs. And lastly, when I’m struggling to keep going, I’m inspired by my network of other business owners always up for venting, collaborating and supporting each other.