CFA in Schools: StepUp

StepUp students performing at Crowder Hall in the 2018 annual Showcase Concert


Step Up establishes dance programs in public schools with low access to the arts by bringing the technical and pedagogical expertise of UA dance teaching artists and alumni to Southern Arizona classrooms. Dance provides learners an avenue to experience creativity and discipline and improving critical thinking skills, body awareness, and self-confidence.

In terms of its relevance in a school day, dance is an ideal synthesis of art and athleticism. As we seek to enlighten and inspire young people who are drawn evermore to a sedentary and overly digitized lifestyle, dance opens up both body and mind and has a positive, energizing effect that students carry with them into their core classes. Formal dance instruction first came into the public education curriculum with the help of John Dewey, progressive education specialist. Dewey believed in the power of allowing humans to experience their surroundings, their educational climate, and their political circumstances by expressing oneself through music and dance.

Step Up works by pairing a master instructor from UA’s lauded School of Dance with a classroom teacher – often a gym teacher or other certified staff member who has interest in and experience with movement – to co-teach an in-school dance class. In addition to the on-site co-teaching, Step Up provides a teacher training workshop and on-campus performance opportunities and engagement experiences to children in grades 3-12. Step Up’s curriculum is based on UA Dance’s three-discipline approach of ballet, modern, and jazz, and it offers several curricular tracks, which are designed to meet the varied needs and experience levels of the classrooms we serve. All tracks align with the kinesthetic abilities of young movers, inspire creativity, desire, and dedication in students, and have been created with Arizona Arts Standards in mind. Students learn classic dance technique using contemporary popular music styles for inspiration, have access to professional dance performances, and participate in the culminating Showcase Concert at a University of Arizona College of Fine Arts venue.



Step Up provides dance learners an avenue to

experience creativity and discipline and to

improve critical thinking skills, body awareness, and self-confidence.



Step Up Principles:

  • Grades 3-5: Focus on creative movement, fitness, body awareness, and confidence
  • Grades 6-12: Focus on ballet, modern, and jazz dance styles fused with hip hop
  • Our master instructor visits your classroom two hours per week
    • For schools with a staff member ready to co-teach the class, Step Up can serve two distinct classrooms
    • For schools without a staff member to co-teach the class, we recommend two one-hour visits weekly

Step Up Students:

  • Experience dance through learning body alignment and dance techniques
  • Learn key dance vocabulary and foundational movements
  • Internalize a musical pulse and move in collaboration with others
  • Improve their physical coordination, self-confidence, flexibility, and positive body image

Note: For schools that wish to invest in barres, mirrors, and special flooring (marley), ballet pointe classes are available!



In 2014, Jory Hancock and Brad Richter began discussing the idea of starting a dance outreach program using the in-school model that Brad had established with Lead Guitar as a framework. Jory brought with him a long history of reaching out to kids in difficult socio-economic circumstances through dance. When UA Dance adjunct instructor and Step Up Master Instructor Erika Colombi was brought on board, she helped connect the Step Up concept to outreach initiatives already begun by the UA Dance Advisory Board. Step Up established a pilot program at Gallego Primary School in January 2016. Erika also worked with volunteers from the UA Dance Advisory Board to organize a free matinee at the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre for K-12 students. By the 2017-18 academic year, Step Up had four partner schools and brought on Master Instructor Marquez Johnson to teach and assist Erika in developing the Step Up instructional videos.



Amphitheater Public Schools


Amphitheater High School

Tucson Unified School District


Catalina High Magnet School

Morgan Maxwell K-8 School

Charter Schools


Las Puertas Community School

Private Schools


Imago Dei Middle School



Jory Hancock

Jory Hancock

Director of the UA School of Dance and Assistant Dean of Fine Arts

Jory Hancock is the former University of Arizona Dean of Fine Arts and current Director of the School of Dance. He has performed a wide range of styles, from classics to moderns, and has been cast as a principal in Swan Lake, Cinderella and other classics, in numerous Balanchine repertoire such as Serenade, Concerto Barocco and Four Temperaments, and in the title role and world premiere of James Clouser’s Caliban, this country’s first full length rock ballet. In addition to his stage performances, Mr. Hancock is featured in five documentary specials made for PBS. Following his work with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Houston Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet, Hancock earned a MS degree in ballet at Indiana University and in 1983 accepted a faculty appointment there. In 1987, he was invited to join the dance faculty at the University of Arizona as an associate professor.

Mr. Hancock serves as Director of the School of Dance, where he was instrumental in moving the program from its early status as a Committee on Dance with 30 BFA students to its current status as a free-standing School with 130 BFA students and 12-14 MFA candidates. One of only a few Schools of Dance in the nation, the UA dance program is highly selective, accepting only 35 applicants out of 400 who audition to enter. In 1995, the dance program won a $75,000 prize when selected as the top department for undergraduate education at the University of Arizona. In October of 2003, as a result of sizable fundraising, the doors officially opened to the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre, a $9 million center designed for dance. This largely gift-funded complex has earned three AIA awards, was selected as the best public project over $5M, and in 2007 was listed as one of Arizona’s “Greatest Architectural Wonders.” In addition to serving on the President’s Cabinet and as Chair of the University Faculty from 2001 to 2005, Mr. Hancock has been responsible for producing two College wide galas and three University wide events to initiate and close-out a $1.2B capital campaign for the University and its Foundation.

Erika Nicole Julian

Erika Nicole Julian

UA School of Dance instructor and Step Up Master Instructor

Erika Julian is an instructor at the University of Arizona School of Dance and Pima Community College. She believes that dance is generous and healing; she uses these beliefs to inspire her work with chronically hospitalized children for the non-profit arts in medicine organization, Beads of Courage. Most recently, Erika has collaborated with Brad Richter on the development of the dance outreach program Step Up to provide quality dance education to underserved children in Southern Arizona. Erika has performed professionally for Ballet Idaho, Idaho Dance Theater, University of Idaho, and Corpus Christi Ballet. Erika has an extensive teaching career that includes teaching for the University of Idaho, Idaho State University, Pima Community College, and the University of Arizona. In 2001, Erika earned her Master’s of Science in Physical Education from the University of Idaho, and her Master’s of Fine Arts from the University of Arizona in 2014.

Marquez Johnson

Marquez Johnson

Step Up Instructor

Marquez Johnson holds an MFA in Dance from the University of Arizona as well as a BFA in Dance and a BA in Communication. He has performed works by José Limón and Ohad Naharin. He was a rehearsal assistant for Miguel Perez and Michele Gifford in the restaging of “The American” by Charles Wheeldon. This past season he performed the role of Baby Face Nelson in Artifact’s premiere of Surrounding Dillinger and has recently completed performing the role of Holofernes in the premier of Judith. As well, he taught contemporary dance and premiered a new work entitled “…to an end” in Artifact Dance Project’s Summer Intensive.

While working at Flowing Wells High school, he has been the director of the National and State Hip-Hop Champion Pulse Dance Company for five years teaching ballet, jazz, hip-hop, modern, and contemporary. While coaching, he has directed an after-school youth dance program giving students performance opportunities alongside high school students in a variety of dance styles at all levels. As well, he worked for the summer arts program in the Flowing Wells school district teaching elementary students elements of hip-hop and jazz. He has many years of experience teaching to diverse students in a wide range of communities and continues to do so with the Step Up program sponsored by the College of Fine Arts at the University of Arizona.

Under the direction of Michael Williams, he participated as a co-host for the Arizona Jazz Dance Showcase while completing his thesis work, “Forecast”. Marquez has been a guest artist for the Barbea Williams Performance Company, performing and choreographing Africana-centered excerpts. Currently, he is a principal dancer with Artifact Dance Project, a guest artist for Ballet Rincon and Arizona Arts Coalition and Collective in their production of The Nutcracker and teaches at Danswest and Dance Force 1.




I really enjoyed being a part of the program since it offered not only extra support for me but also a field trip and performance at the university. Those experiences are incredibly enriching for my students because not many of them have even set foot on a college campus or a stage before.

Jessica Munoz

Dance Teacher, Challenger Middle School

CFA in Schools programming is provided at no charge for schools at which 80% or more of students qualify for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch (FRPL).

Schools with between 0 and 79% of students qualifying for FRPL pay a small fee along a sliding scale.

The remaining cost of a CFA in Schools program is paid for through individual and corporate charitable donations, family foundations, and granting organizations.

Please help bring CFA in Schools to even more deserving youth by donating today!

3 Ways to Give

Marquez was able to engage the boys in learning more technical ballet skills. I noticed they were much more open to learning ballet technique from a male teacher than a female one. I also appreciated the connections he made to sports and other activities so the students could see how dance can help them improve in other aspects of their lives as well.

Jessica Munoz

Dance Teacher, Challenger Middle School

Donate Online

Write a check

Please make it payable to “UA Foundation – CFA in Schools” and deliver to:

University of Arizona – CFA in Schools
Attn: Holly Holmes
University Services Building
888 N Euclid Ave, Rm 203
Tucson, AZ 85721

Give by Phone

Call the College of Fine Arts at 520-621-9057 to pay by Credit Card

Your gift through UA Foundation on behalf of CFA in Schools qualifies as a tax-deductible donation.

Please indicate whether you would like your gift to benefit CFA in Schools generally, or a specific program (UpBeat, Step Up, or Music First).

Thank you very much for your support!

Note: For donations to Lead Guitar, please visit the Lead Guitar website.