Under spotlights and surrounded by a small audience of parents and family members, barefoot students between the ages of 8 and 16 danced across the Lyric Theatre stage.
Hoping to present their skills at the end of summer camp ceremony, the students pay close attention to instructor Jeana Klevene as she shares words of encouragement while they try out their new dance moves.
The dancers are some of the participants in the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center’s free Summer Youth Programming, which offers classes every other Saturday during June and July.
Students can take intro to dance, guitar and creative writing classes. Classes last for a hour, and then students have the opportunity to eat a healthy lunch before they leave. The free lunches are provided by Fresh Approach, a community organization promoting healthy living by focusing on food and nutrition.
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This is the fifth year for the program.
Tim Small, the education and marketing coordinator at the Lyric, oversees the program which is designed to give students confidence through creative education.
Students “need something outside of their normal school curriculum to invest their time and energy into,” Small says.
Klevene, the artistic director and founder of Allegro Dance Project, a contemporary dance company, teaches the dance class. She was approached about teaching this summer after the Allegro Dance Project had its first performance at the Lyric last June. In intro to dance, students explore different styles of dance such as classical ballet and jazz.
“Our main mission is to provide dance outreach for children, with focus on children from low-to-moderate income households,” Klevene said of the summer series.
“The Lyric’s passion to provide free programming for youth is a cause close to my heart, so I am thrilled to be a part of the summer series,” she added.
The creative writing instructor is Devine Carama, a hip hop artist and new Youth Services Coordinator at Community Action Council. Carama has performed at the Lyric several times. Two years ago, the Lyric added Creative Writing to its programming and contacted him. He “humbly accepted,” he said.
“I want the kids to gain a better understanding of the power of their words. Writing can not only be a creative outlet of expression, but also a platform for them to use their voice to promote inspiration for change and the betterment of their community,” he says.
Andrew Serce and Joseph Douglas teach the intro to guitar class. Douglas is an undergraduate senior at the University of Kentucky and Serce is currently getting his doctorate in guitar performance. They both have toured with the UK Guitar Ensemble.
Funds provided by Partners for Youth’s grant program allowed the Lyric to purchase notebooks for the creative writing class and rent guitars for the intro to guitar class. In turn, the Lyric is allowing the music students without guitars to take the instruments home for more practice time.
The Lyric holds a similar program during Fayette County’s spring break. It is geared toward students grades 8-12.