The American Youth Dance Company Makes a Difference With Dance for our Children
The American Youth Dance Company at The King Centre for the Performing Arts is a diverse and dynamic group of dancers who not only train to compete in local and national competitions, but also sincerely want to make a difference in their community. They demonstrated this recently by joining together with Mariann’s School of Dance and the Marked Dance Project in a program founded by King Centre director Nancy King and her son Christopher King called Dance for our Children. Last year Christopher, along with two other members from the Broadway show Wicked, had been invited to visit a patient at Hackensack Children’s Hospital. The patient was a young girl named Juliana who had wanted to see the show but was too weak to leave the hospital. She was treated to a “mini show” in her hospital room and unfortunately lost her battle the following week. Christopher was inspired to keep giving back to the community through his art and he encouraged The American Youth Dance Company to do the same. The kids were excited and Dance for our Children was born and has become an annual event.
The idea was to do something different and create a weekend where the emphasis was on developing technique in workshop classes, meeting new people, performing in a show along with stars from television and Broadway and raising money for the Creative Arts Therapy Program at Hackensack Children’s Hospital. Workshop classes were taught by Kameron Bink, James Boyd and Karla Garcia from the popular television show So You Think You Can Dance, Bad Boys of Dance, Rasta Thomas’ Rock the Ballet and various Broadway shows. The kids all had a fantastic time and enjoyed bonding with their instructors and new friends.
The weekend culminated in a spectacular show performed on February 8th at Bergen Academies in Hackensack. Guest artists included all of the workshop teachers as well as Emily Padgett who recently performed as the lead in Broadway’s Side Show, Mark Rivera founder of the Marked Dance Project and Richard H. Blake who currently stars as “Tommy De Vito” in Jersey Boys on Broadway. Perhaps one of the biggest stars that evening was Caroline, an 11 year old dancer from Mariann’s school of dance who has triumphed over kidney cancer three times. Before treating the audience to her solo “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, Caroline explained in a letter to the audience how important the Creative Arts Therapy Program was to her and her family during her illness. All proceeds from the ticket sales for the Dance for our Children performance were donated to the Creative Arts Therapy Program.
Nancy and Christopher King along with The King Centre and The American Youth Dance Company plan to grow Dance for Our Children and hope to invite many more studios to join them in the future. One of Nancy’s favorite quotes is “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away”-anonymous. Dance for our Children has definitely been one of those wonderful breathtaking moments in our lives and has reminded us of the power that we all have to make a difference.