Lafayette society, Boys and Girls Club of West Georgia partner to bring arts to kids
LaGRANGE — The eight elementary schoolers were giddy with excitement Wednesday as they piled out of a rusty 15-passenger van in front of the Lafayette Society for Performing Arts on Bull Street.
As part of the LSPA’s Theatre Outreach pilot program, they’re the first batch of students to experience a no-cost after-school program for students who attend area schools. The goal is to expand it to more schools next year, explained Jennifer Shook, the LSPA’s executive director.
“The program existed in the past,” she said. “But it was disbanded in 2006. We used to serve six after-school programs, and we’re working toward bringing that back.”
The eight girls, who are all members of the Boys and Girls Club of West Georgia, spend an hour each Wednesday at the LSPA learning dance routines, and Shook is hoping it will augment arts education that’s been cut from schools as budgets have grown tight in recent years.
“We want this to be a supplement to the schools,” she said. “It’s important that the arts are inclusive, and I think our partnership with the Boys and Girls Club really helps us achieve that.”
This fall, the girls will perform at the Boys and Girls Club’s annual holiday celebration, Shook said. Giving the kids something to look forward to, along with goals, is what the program is all about, said Katie Cain, the program’s instructor.
“I think every child deserves to experience the arts,” she said. “Dance is a great way to express yourself and stay healthy. I hope from this class, they gain an appreciation for the arts in general, not just dance. It’s a great confidence builder.”
Elizabeth Goode, a wide-eyed fifth grader who turned 11 on Wednesday and wore a “birthday girl” sticker on her chest to prove it, said she’s enjoyed the program.
“I like it because I like dancing,” she said. “It’s something I just wanted to do.”
Even at age 11, she’s already thinking about her future.
“I think I want to be a professional dancer,” she said.
She may have a future, if Boys and Girls Club alumni are an indication. Misty Copeland, a renowned ballet dancer and the first African-American to become a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre in April of this year, also came up in the Boys and Girls Club.
“Misty Copeland is just amazing,” said Amy Orr, an artistic director with LSPA. “She came from the Boys and Girls Club, and there are so many talented children at our club here in LaGrange that have gifts to share with us.”
McDow will work with the eight girls as the school year progresses, and will help assess their abilities and place them into other ballet programs at the LSPA if the girls desire, she said.
Although the program is offered to the students at no charge, that doesn’t mean it’s free to put on, Shook said.
It costs about $150 per dancer to outfit them with the shoes, tights and other items they need. Right now, the LSPA is applying for grants to fund the program on a larger scale next year, and donations from community members are gladly accepted, Shook said.
Shook is hoping to share the LSPA’s talents with the community at large.
“This is a piece of a puzzle,” she said. “We have so many talents inside this building, and it’s time to share them with the outside community.”
For more information about the LSPA, visit www.lsparts.org or call 706-882-9909.
Note: This article has been updated to correct a misidentification.