Meet Berwyn’s Entrepreneurs: Angela Gonzales of Chance to Dance

Welcome to Meet Berwyn’s Entrepreneurs! Berwyn has become a hot spot for urban professionals, entrepreneurs and creatively minded individuals. From musicians to crafters, small business owners to dedicated team members, Berwyn is home to a remarkable group of movers and shakers who keep our community vibrant. This segment gives us a chance to get to know what makes our local leaders tick! Enjoy!

Meet Angela Gonzales of Chance to Dance (2947 S Oak Park Ave, Berwyn), est. 2015
Hometown:
 North Riverside, IL
Current Residence: North Riverside, IL
All about Angela: I grew up in North Riverside and, to an extent, in Berwyn. My sister and I were raised by our strong and passionate mother. Being a single mother meant long hours at work and because of this my grandparents, who lived in Berwyn, played a big role in my life growing up, as well helping to take care of my sister and I before and after school. Aside from taking care of us, they were also some of my earliest supporters of dance, sitting through every single “living- room performance” I gave so that I could practice my choreography from dance class. I never gravitated towards sports as a child. Instead, I found that dancing was where I could be myself; no one could bother me. I didn’t have to share my thoughts or feelings, I could just let my movement speak. While in middle school, I faced my fair share of bullies, attacking me about my body type—because as a dancer, I was not and still am not the “norm.” My body image has been a life-long struggle. At the time I didn’t want to burden my mom with my feelings of self-doubt (she had enough on her plate) so instead I buried myself in dance. Dance has been a constant force in my life and has fed my soul time and time again, giving me strength in times of struggle and changing any fear I felt into courage— and ultimately joy. However, in order to take dance class when I was younger, I had to teach dance, as the amount of dance classes were simply not affordable for a single mother of two.

The Business Side: When I was 19 and a sophomore in college at DePaul University, Chance to Dance was born with the goal of providing an equitable and affordable dance education to children of low income families in the West-Suburban Chicagoland area. It took about two years to find a permanent home but in 2013, the PAV YMCA gave us space to conduct our classes. We opened our doors for the first time to about 45 students in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. Since then, things have changed quite a bit. To date we have served about 400 children throughout Berwyn and beyond. We offer classes Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for children ages three through eighteen in the styles of hip-hop and jazz and are able to sustain and host our own spring recital held at Fenwick High School. For just $50, we provide 17-week dance classes to youth interested in participating. Working alongside my best friend and sister has been the most amazing experience. This is by far the most exciting and fulfilling work we’ve ever done. I’m so thankful to her for her constant support, dedication and work ethic to make Chance to Dance a reality.

Seeing the impact Chance to Dance has on the lives of the children is great motivation to help me keep the program growing. Chance to Dance’s mission, and the foundation in which we’ve built our company upon is to “empower youth to pave the path from hope to change.” In order to facilitate this empowerment, we focus on five specific pillars of development in our students. “I am strong, I am beautiful, I am talented, I am empowered and I am ready to work hard.” These statements are recited by our students before the start of each class. Our goal is to provide everyone, regardless of physical or financial circumstances, a “Chance to Dance.” However, our work is so much more than that. We’re building dreamers and leaders who believe in themselves and love themselves for exactly who they are. We create space for our dancers to feel welcome, to feel confident and ultimately to feel loved. My fundamental purpose is to be a leader and create a space for these children that I so desperately craved and needed when I was younger—and often times still need today.

Describe yourself using 3 words and explain why you chose those words
Driven:
 In every facet of my professional life, I am driven entirely by my passions for both dance and for education. When I do something, I do it whole-heartedly. I’ve always felt that if you’re going to do something and are working toward a goal, no matter how big or small, that you should do it with all that you have or it’s simply not worth doing at all. 
Compassionate:
 My compassion is fed by my passions. The sympathy and concern I feel for others can be both a blessing and a curse. I am often compassionate to a fault in that I feel the need to fix or help others in situations that I have no control over. Though this can be an internal struggle, I wouldn’t change my compassion for the world as it has helped to build Chance to Dance.
Messy:
 I’m organized, but often messy. I come home from my 12-hour days and it’s similar to what I imagine a tornado does to a small town. My room remains clean and organized, but my car, which is arguably where I spend the bulk of my day, is not pretty. I can do hard things, like work full time, get my masters and build a non-profit organization from the ground up, but throwing away my Starbucks cups and water bottles is just a bit too much for me. It sets me over the edge. You understand, right? J

What inspires you? 
Hard work or anyone who is truly dedicated to what they do—whether they’re 10 and sitting in a classroom persevering through a complicated problem, 35 and raising two children on their own or 70 and running their own business. The work ethic and passion that people exude is contagious, amazing to witness and inspires me to be a better person. I’m constantly inspired, too, by my sister and mother who overwhelmingly inspire me with the hard work they put into their lives day in and day out.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.
I’m terrified of birds, or more realistically, anything with an unpredictable flight pattern. Pigeons in the city of Chicago are the bane of my existence.

What makes you laugh?
My sister and sarcasm. I think laughter is the best way to get through any situation. Feelings of fear, anger and stress can all be cured or lessened by a little laughter in your life. If you can’t laugh at yourself, in my opinion, you’re taking life too seriously.

What is something that you are NOT good at?
Math. Always have been, probably always will be. As a teacher, I’ve grown to love to teach math and it’s helped me to really dig in to my number sense and understanding of the concept, but I am absolutely TERRIBLE at it. I’m definitely more of a creative brain.

What are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about creating equitable social, emotional and educational experiences for children. Doing our best to create spaces for our children to learn, develop and grow into kind, generous and intentional beings is the greatest thing we can do for our future. The little faces that pass us in the street, sit in our classrooms, and look to us for guidance, deserve the best we have to give. They are our future. For my students, I strive to be the person and leader that I needed when I was a child. That’s what keeps me passionate about the work that I do.

Click here to learn more about our program.

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