June 10, 2019
Committed to making a difference in the lives of children with disabilities, PrintingCenterUSA leveraged the power of its national customer base to fundraise for Indianapolis-based Kids Dance Outreach’s (KDO) Adaptive Dance program. During the month of May, PrintingCenterUSA donated a portion of the proceeds from select products to the nonprofit — raising a total of $5,025 for child dancers with disabilities.
The proceeds from the fundraising campaign will go towards summer programs KDO is hosting, including a course specifically for dancers with Down Syndrome under its Adaptive Dance program.
“With school out, kids often become isolated in the summer months — more so for children with disabilities who are too often left out,” said KDO Founding Director Michael Johnson. “As an inclusive organization, when we bring kids of all abilities together our communities are stronger because of it. We are extremely grateful to PrintingCenterUSA for helping to provide further opportunities to dancers with disabilities.”
Last December, PrintingCenterUSA broke a record in rallying its customer base to make the largest donation ever by a company to the Special Olympics of Montana. The success of that campaign inspired us to continue to make a difference in the lives of children with disabilities across the nation.
We are humbled to be able to help KDO carry out its mission of empowering children with disabilities through the power of performance art, thanks to the charitable giving of our customers.
HEARTWARMING KDO CONCERT IS A ROUSING SPECTACLE
May 1, 2019
What was most enjoyable about the “Kids Dance Outreach 2019 Event of the Year” Tuesday night was the astounding vitality and exuberance of the 75 children who were featured in the dance performance with the theme of “Hold Fast to Dreams.” Staged at Howard Schrott Center for the Arts on the campus of Butler University, the sold-out event showcased the young dancers, ages 8-11, in a ultra lively program that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance.
The mission of Kids Dance Outreach (KDO), founded in 2012 by former Boston Ballet dancer Michael J. Johnson, is “to positively impact the lives of all children through joyful dance programs that inspire excellence, install confidence, encourage teamwork and applaud persistence.” It serves 2,000 students attending Indianapolis public and charter schools. Different from a dance studio, KDO’s most important feature is its accessibility. Classes, taught by master teachers and musicians, are free for all children, regardless of ability, economic status or religion.
Dancing to live music performed by an eight-piece band of seasoned musicians, the super-talented KDO performers were dazzling as they executed, in some cases, very complex choreography, much of it created by Johnson, KDO associate director Monica M. Muñoz and lead teaching assistant Courtney Coirin.
Additional choreography featured in the concert was created by Ellen Weinstein, artistic director of the National Dance Institute in New York City. Weinstein and NDI founder Jacques d’ Amboise, a former ballet dancer and legend in the dance world, were both present for the event. Prior to the concert, they participated in a panel discussion with Johnson for a VIP audience. KDO became an Indiana Associate of the National Dance Institute in 2018, one of a dozen in the country. KDO’s association with NDI is quite a feather in the cap for Johnson and his colleagues, considering the organization’s high profile, as was D’Amboise’s and Weinstein’s attendance at the event.
There is so much to praise about the concert, but for purposes of brevity I will highlight those moments that most caught my attention and there were many.
First of all, I wish to single out Leilani Hendrix, who served as the program’s narrator. Showing remarkable poise and confidence, she reflected a maturity way beyond her years, as did young Darrel Watson who recited, respectively, “I, Too,” and “The Dream Keeper,” two Langston Hughes poems near the open and close of the concert. Adding to the show’s high entertainment value was soloist Troy Thomas, Jr. who sang “Minnie the Moocher.”
I do wish to emphasize that, at times, I could not believe my eyes, as the kids, showing impressive discipline and control, danced in total sync and executing the kinds of combinations and formations that are common in musical theatre choreography. Also amazing was their musicality, with many of the young dancers conveying buoyant personalities.
Featuring choreography that mirrored large musical theatre production numbers, the dancers shined in “The Big City” set to music by Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington and the “The Cotton Club & The Nicholas Brothers,” featuring Thomas Campbell and Jeremiah Bolden, who turned in phenomenal performances as the legendary, tap-dancing siblings. Featuring KDO standout Jasemine Bolden as “Tenant” and Keegan Loye as “Cop,” the kids delighted an enthusiastic audience in “Rent Party.”
In lieu of an intermission, KDO held a “Find a Need Auction,” which was overseen by auctioneer Jay Cash. Donors held up numbered cards as poignant photos of KDO dancers by Jenny Danek were projected on a large screen above the stage. A whopping $29,000 in pledges was collected in less than 20 minutes.
Highlights of the concert’s second half were “Black Bottom,” which featured KDO’s X-Team, which also wowed the crowd in “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Absolutely moving was “What a Wonderful World,” featuring Karlee Rund & Phoebe Reese, accompanied by projected images that portrayed KDO’s racial diversity, a key component of its mission.
Since attending the concert, I have reflected deeply about the event’s possible impact on the kids who performed and my experience as an audience member. To successfully perform and receive the love and adulation of an adoring audience, with many parents and families in attendance, must truly have been a life-changing experience the KDO kids will never forget. As far as its impact on me, seeing those innocent, fresh-faced, totally guileless young kids expressing themselves left me feeling optimistic that through their passion, commitment and creativity, they’ll help make the world a better place than the one they have inherited.Adding to the elevated quality of the concert, which was KDO’s first professionally produced presentation, were its top-notch production values, as evidenced by the lighting design created by Laura Glover, who works her magic regularly for Dance Kaleidoscope, Kathleen Egan’s costume design and tech-video contributions from Jeff Gooch, and production managers Abraham Sheckels and Kelly Schmidt.
Group teaching students to dance
Posted: Dec 18, 2018 09:50 AM EST
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A group that teaches children to dance, sometimes introducing them to dance for the first time, has expanded.
Kids Dance Outreach (KDO) started in 2012 and partnered with about 12 Indianapolis Public Schools.
This semester it expanded full-time to IPS Super School 19 on the southeast side of Indianapolis.
Once a week for about 45 minutes to an hour, students in the school get to dance and move. It is something the school’s principal believes is important.
“We believe exercise builds brain cells. We want to incorporate movement as much as we can all throughout the building so we thought it would be a great opportunity to turn our music program into a performing arts program,” IPS Super School 19 principal John McClure.
Part of the reason KDO started was to introduce children to dance who otherwise may miss out on the opportunity.
“The goal is to inspire excellence and infuse their lives with art in a way that they may have never been exposed to or may never be exposed to otherwise,” said KDO instructor Monica Munoz.
For Jordynn, who is in second grade, the dance moves are a lot of fun.
“My favorite thing to do is dance. You need to get real much focused to do things as perfect as you want them to be,” she said.
KDO staff said the biggest thing they struggle with is continued funding. They hope to further expand into more schools.
At the start of the school year, Omana Jacob dreaded having to appear before an audience. The 8-year-old knew she had an upcoming performance at her church but suffered from a bad case of nerves.
Then Kids Dance Outreach came to the fourth-grader’s school, Tindley Renaissance Academy on the Eastside, and Jacob had a complete change of heart. Dancing alongside her classmates for 10 weeks quelled whatever fears she once had.
The classes “helped me believe in myself and get more confidence,” she said. “It helped me strengthen my courage not to have stage fright.”
On a gray, November morning, Omana and about 40 of her classmates performed in front of an assembly of their parents and peers. While their moves were crisp, from a demonstration of rudimentary ballet steps to a dance set to the rollicking “We Go Together” from “Grease,” the true testament to what the students had mastered came at the end of the performance.
One by one, they took the microphone to share what they liked about Kids Dance Outreach.
How we all interact with each other and freestyling.
How they taught us to be ourselves.
We got to help each other.
I like dancing because it gets my energy out.
I like dancing because you can show the true emotions in your body.
A few years ago, Butler graduate Michael Johnson returned to Indianapolis for a two-year visiting professorship at his alma mater. He had spent more than a decade on the East Coast, first as a professional ballet dancer with the Boston Ballet and then helping to run that organization’s community outreach program, which reaches thousands of Boston schoolchildren each year.
Indianapolis’ lack of a comparable program struck Johnson — so he decided to start one.
For the past three years, Johnson has been bringing what he calls “high-quality dance outreach” to children during the school day. The idea is to reach children who might not have access to after-school dance programs or classes, either because their parents cannot afford such programs or have no means to get them to classes.
Through eight- to 10-week class sessions, Johnson and the seven or so teachers with whom he works not only introduce students to the rudiments of dance but also focus on using the experience to foster discipline, confidence and cooperation.
“We’re not looking for the next professional dancer. We’re looking to give a high-quality arts opportunity to kids,” Johnson said. “Our program is so much bigger than just learning dance steps.”
In 2015, the program will offer sessions at eight Indianapolis schools. In addition, it will run one-time workshops for students about dance at an additional 15 schools. Kids Dance Outreach, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, also offers a program for children with disabilities. In all, Kids Dance Outreach will touch 1,500 students’ lives this year.
The program has proved so successful that the organization already has a wait list of schools that would like Kids Dance Outreach for their students. But finances limit how many teachers Johnson can hire and, therefore, how many schools the program can serve.
This fall, Kids Dance Outreach worked with half of the fourth grade at Tindley Renaissance Academy. The other half will go through the program in the spring. Depending on the school, classes meet once a week for an hour or sometimes two.
Some schools host the classes at their school; others bus the students Downtown to the Athenaeum for lessons.
Classes start with the simplest ballet steps. But during the weekslong program, students learn a variety of dance styles. Dance, Johnson said, is no different than other disciplines, in which one must master the basics for a strong foundation.
“Before you do math, you have to learn numbers,” Johnson said. “There are steps to everything.”
Many school officials welcome the opportunities that Kids Dance Outreach affords. IPS Super School 19 features an action-based curriculum with lots of chances for physical education.
But Principal Aleicha Ostler recognized that few of her students could afford costly dance lessons.
So when she heard about Kids Dance, she invited them, two years in a row.
“I see a lot of kids find a talent that they didn’t know they have and get to step up and be leaders,” she said. “It teaches them to support their academics with focus, discipline, following along steps, remembering. There are just a lot of skills I feel it helps our students with that will help them down the line.”
Although the program does not focus on discovering budding dancers, if the dance teachers find children who want to go beyond the school’s outreach programs, Kids Dance Outreach offers additional classes through its after-school extension program.
Tremaine Fields, who says he was “born a dancer,” is just the sort of child who can benefit. Before Kids Dance Outreach came to Tindley, the fourth-grader had to content himself with watching dance shows on TV like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” and imitating the dance moves he saw there.
For him, Kids Dance Outreach has been a welcome revelation.
“I learned there was more than just freestyle. You can do dance in a group,” he said.
Now, Tremaine has joined Kids Dance Outreach’s extension program and will appear in a performance of The Nutcracker this holiday season at Carmel High School.
His mother, Tamika Fields, is overjoyed that her son finally has an opportunity to take his love of dance to a new level.
“He’s loving being able to be in a dance group,” she said. “He set his eyes on it as soon as he heard about it. This is just a stepping stone for him.”
For most students, however, the program offers a release from academics and helps them feel that much better about their own capabilities.
At the end of every class, teachers have the students form a circle, and then they turn on Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and invite students to do their own thing in the middle.
“It makes us feel like we’re in a different world,” Ma’kenzee Mastin said. “We just start dancing.”
Call Star reporter Shari Rudavsky at (317) 444-6354. Follow her on Twitter: @srudavsky.