CityDance Dream performs at the DCPS Back to School Block Party at Ron Brown College Preparatory in northeast D.C. on Sept. 9. (Courtesy of Felicia Taylor)
CityDance Dream performs at the DCPS Back to School Block Party at Ron Brown College Preparatory in northeast D.C. on Sept. 9. (Courtesy of Felicia Taylor)

One local organization gives young girls in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) the opportunity to have formal dance training while preparing them for life after high school.

CityDance Dream had their latest performance on Saturday, Sept. 9 at DCPS Back to School Block Party where they showcased their moves ahead of the group’s first open audition on Sept. 30.

“Our students perform at a number of venues including half time at Wizards and Mystics games, community events and an annual performance at the Lincoln theater,” said Kelli Quinn, founding director of CityDance Dream. “The ultimate goal is to train as a dancer, graduate high school and to support our students in doing so. The skills that you learn through pushing yourself in the dance studio and performances are directly applicable to life and the challenges that life brings along.”

Founded in 2004, as an after-school program at Green Elementary in Ward 8, CityDance Dream now offers two programs that have wraparound services such as academic, college prep and family services.

“Inside the center we have formal dance training for grades 3-12,” Quinn said. “There’s an artistic vision for what they put on stage, but also we know them each really deeply and we know about their lives, families and all of it comes together in the dance studio to what you see.”

Shanya Walker, 17, a longtime member of Dream joined when they came to her school 10 years ago.

“CityDance was at my school one day at lunch,” Shanya said. “I tried everything in extra curricular activities at my school, but I didn’t find a fit for me, so when CityDance came I said, ‘Why not try dance?’

“In the beginning I was a little shy in class, but I began to break out of my shell,” she said. “I began in elementary school and now I’m a senior at McKinley Tech High School.”

Shanya said after high school, she has dreams separate from dance, but she plans to keep the art form in her life.

“My dream right now is to major in nursing and minor in dance,” she said. “I want to do nursing, but keep dance in my life.”

She and Quinn both emphasized that CityDance Dream functions as a family.

“We’re like a big dance family,” Walker said. “When I’m scared to tell anybody else anything, I’ll go to Ms. Kelly and tell her.”

Quinn said watching the girls grow from elementary to high school is a gift for the staff.

“We spend a lot of time together,” she said. “We get to see them along a 10-year journey and that’s a significant part of their life — from being young energetic children to young adults when they leave us. I think the way we see them change and evolve is such a gift for us, because we get to be there at a lot of critical points for them.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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