Outreach: Step Ahead 2011 – A Journey to Our Roots

For the past six weeks, Joy of Motion Dance Center’s Atlas studios have been ringing with the sounds of 50 teens from all over Washington, DC. They have been dancing their way through this summer’s Step Ahead program. This Friday, August 5th at 6:00 p.m. participants will showcase the moves they’ve learned at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. The show titled “A Journey to Our Roots” is free and open to the public, but only a select amount of seats are available. Please e-mail outreach@joyofmotion.org to reserve your seat.

The Step Ahead program teaches life and career skills, in addition to dance, to better prepare them to step ahead into a productive and creative future. This is the seventh year of Step Ahead and the sixth year Quynn Johnson, JOMDC Program Manager, Education and Outreach, has directed the program.

Step Ahead participants take ballet class.

According to Quynn, the three principal goals of the Step Ahead program are to build a sense of Belonging and Membership, Physical Health and Self-Worth. Her focus this year is to better communicate these goals and to have a higher expectation for her students’ dancing abilities. Working with Quynn to achieve these goals are two interns from the Urban Alliance, Jasmine Locklear and Janay Quarles. Urban Alliance is a year-long employment program for under-resourced high school seniors in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md. They have been handling logistical duties such as coordinating dance classes to ensure a successful program for Step Ahead participants like Nadean Talley.

Nadean, 15, attends Thurgood Marshall Academy. She talked about what she has taken away from the program. “I’ve learned about keeping my body in shape,” she said. “I enjoy coming here every day and being able to get tips and pointers from professional dancers. It’s a great opportunity being able to get formal training from choreographers that are professional and have companies of their own.”

Ryan Johnson teaches a body percussion class.

Ryan Johnson is one of the dance instructors teaching and mentoring Nadean and other Step Ahead participants. He was a soloist for the professional stepping company Step Afrika! for six years and currently performs with STOMP on Broadway. According to Ryan, the Step Ahead program is a powerful way to teach life lessons.

“The instructors are living testament to the fact that dance can change your life. The children leave the program as leaders, as people who can face adversities and challenges. It makes a lot of difference teaching discipline and respect to the kids through dance,” he said. For more information about the Step Ahead program, click here.