Art Starts presents the One Love Step Group
Stepping up with step-dancing!
Step Up! is a program that began in early 2014 as a response to the youth in the Lawrence Heights and surrounding areas who were clamouring to learn the art of stepping. As a part of our continued commitment to the residents in these neighbourhoods Art Starts was able to provide a space within the Yorkdale Community Arts Centre where youth from 7-18 can learn choreography, create dance pieces to perform and learn the social skills essential for success.
The program also addresses concerns of community tension and conflict among the youth and provides a bridge for them to connect. “The Step Up program is providing a platform to unify the neighbourhoods of Neptune, Jungle and Champlain around the art of dance.“ explains Alicia Clarke program manager for Art Starts‘ Lawrence Heights neighbourhood.
A collaborative effort, Art Starts has been working with Toronto Parks & Recreation youth coordinator Shukri Mohamed, Toronto Community Housing mentor Teisha Mullings and youth leader Lashay Cadore along with Black Action Defence Committee youth outreach worker Hasha Alexander to finally bring this offering to the youth. “It almost makes you forget the overwhelming tensions that exist between their neighbourhoods” says Shukri. “This initiative has been in the minds of front line workers in these communities for a long time“.
“Some of the challenges that the group of mostly young women are dealing with surface in their social interactions” says Teisha who provides a fresh perspective to the youth by encouraging them to curb behaviours that reinforce negative stereotypes and adopt more empowering habits.
“The expectation of the youth in the program is respect, love and positivity,” stresses Alicia, which the group has embraced as they came together and named their team the One Love Step Group.
Inspiringly the youth have gotten so involved and been so committed after working with famed dance instructor Hollywood Jade they have organized the group with team jerseys and have been applying to perform in local stepping competitions. Currently preparing for their first performance on May 17th at the 2nd Annual Girls Power Leadership Conference, which aims to empower young girls discover their individual identity, tenacity and creative gifts, the group is eager and talented and ready to take the stepping world by storm!