create / 2016

The Inner City Dance Project: Teaching professional dance and theater to LA’s inner city youth

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Zeneith Performing Arts

The Inner City Dance Project is a dance and theater intensive that will provide professional performing arts training for 50 middle school, high school, and foster youth in the inner city of LA.

Please describe your project proposal.

The Inner City Dance Project will bring professional dance training to students who other wise would not be able to access this training due to financial and geographic difficulties. We will identify 40 middle school and high school students, 5 foster youth, and 5 Zeneith Performing Arts (ZPA) students to participate in a ten-week dance and theater intensive that will conclude with a performance. The project will also subsidize class tuition for students who train with ZPA after the project.

Which of the create metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Arts establishments
  • Employment in the creative industries
  • Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”)
  • Minority- and women-owned firms

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • South LA
  • South Bay

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to create?

With more than 28,000 performing arts jobs, Los Angeles has the nation’s best market for performing artists. However, young performing artists within Los Angeles’ low-income communities face poverty, crime, and other economic risk factors that can hinder their competitiveness in the performing arts industry.

To counter these factors, Zeneith Performing Arts (ZPA) will identify 40 students from two inner city middle schools and two inner city high schools to participate in the Inner City Dance Project. These schools will be located in school districts that ZPA has a current working relationship with including Compton, Long Beach, Gardena and Los Angeles. These students will take ten classes per week in the areas of ballet, tap, hip-hop, jazz, Afro-Caribbean, modern dance, acting and performance. These classes will be challenging but not competitive, inspiring all students to work as a team and to value their performing arts community. In addition, students will take a field trip to the world-renowned Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to view a professional dance performance. This will introduce the students to the vast and masterful Los Angeles performing arts arena. Finally, the project will conclude with a student performance at an inner city theater to provide the students a well-rounded and creative experience as performing artists. ZPA will subsidize 80% of class tuition for all participants interested in training and performing with ZPA for the remainder of the year.

ZPA will also identify five foster youth to participate in the project. After implementing a dance program at a Long Beach group home in 2014, ZPA’s Directors recognized a critical need for an artistic discipline such as dance in these youth’s lives. The Inner City Dance project will inspire their creativity, talent and potential in the performing arts that will help them cope with the unique emotional and social risk factors they face in their homes and community.

ZPA will also identify five of its current students for the project, as more than 90% of ZPA students meet the target demographic of The Inner City Dance Project.

This intensive will also allow ZPA to employ professional dance and theater instructors who have overcome socioeconomic barriers to succeed in the performing arts industry. These instructors will serve as role models with whom students can relate.

For more than fifteen years, ZPA has professionally trained dance and theater students who have come from single-parent homes, poverty, families that deal with physical and mental health issues, and other disparities common to low-income communities. Despite these circumstances, ZPA alumni have graduated from college, performed on Broadway, become dance instructors and pursued other notable careers. Just as past ZPA alumni have done, the goal of the Inner City Dance Project is to inspire all participants to believe that, in spite of their circumstances, Los Angeles is a place where they too can create and thrive.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

The success of the project will be measured using three methods. The first method will take place at the five-week point of the intensive. We will host a meeting for all of the parents and students in which they can provide verbal and written feedback to the Artistic Directors regarding the progress of the program. Progress will be determined by the students’ increased interest in the performing arts, physical abilities, and sense of community at ZPA.

The second method will take place at the final performance. We will provide a survey to all students and audience members asking for them to evaluate their experience, the quality of the instructors and performance, and whether or not they would continue to participate in the performing arts.

The final method will be determined by student retention. We will count the number of students that continue to take class with Zeneith Performing Arts after the summer intensive. Considering the financial cost of class, despite the 80% subsidized tuition, might prevent some students from continuing to train with ZPA, a successful program would be measured by a retention of at least 65% of the students.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Advisors/board members
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles etc.)
  • Technical infrastructure (computers etc.)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support