Arts + Culture
How Elevé Dance Theater Seeks to Fill a Void for African American Youth with a Love for Dance
Something beautiful happens when a person sees there is a void in the world and they decide to be the change they wish to see. Deidre Sears is one of those people. The void she saw was a lack of representation and the absence of a space for black youth to engage in the arts and self expression. And what was the solution she found in effort to create the change she wished to see? Sears founded a dance studio. The Elevé Dance Theater to be exact.
Sears founded Elevé Dance Theater back in 2013 to spread the wealth in regards to her talent and passion for the art of dance. More importantly, she sought to empower the community and the youth through that shared love for dance. A dancer all her life, Sears views dance as not only an escape, but also as a form of therapy.
She received dance training in New Jersey in the realm of Ballet, Jazz, and Modern Dance under the guidance of teachers who danced with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theater of Harlem, the Garden State Ballet, and Broadway. In her younger days, the entrepreneur also graced the stage of Carnegie Hall and City Center, opening for acts like Ne-Yo and Keyshia Cole.
Having experienced the positive influence of dance first hand in her youth, Sears knew how pivotal a role dance could play in another young person’s life. “Personally, without dancing as a child, I’m not sure how or where I would have ended up. Especially growing up in an urban area. Dance training brings so many life lessons that they will always be able to look back to as adults. It helps build self-esteem and perseverance.”
“Dance is always that activity that is overlooked,” she continued. “However, it brings discipline, confidence and leadership skills. It provokes problem solving and empowers them to be creative and innovative thinkers. Since its conception in September 2013, the students that have been with me have shown tremendous growth in all aspects of their lives!”
Sears knew while living in New York that she wanted to start a dance company of her own one day. However, back then, she thought it would be an adult dance company – to show off her authority as a choreographer. However, after she moved to Poconos, Pennsylvania, she became privy to a different opportunity.
“I witnessed there was a void,” she said. “Especially for the African American youth. There was really nothing in the area that they could call their own. Nothing that helped them cultivate as better cultured citizens. I knew and understood what the importance of what a dance education could bring to children’s lives but also to the community. It was also during a time I was tired of seeing young girls twerking and not carrying themselves as respectable ladies. I wanted to impart to them what was given to me.”
Elevé Dance Theater is now in its fourth year. The school stands as the only black-owned dance school in Poconos and has a demographic makeup that is mostly black. The dance school caters to youth of all ages, from 3 1/2 to adults. The theater also offers a variety of classes to their students: Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Hip Hop, African, and Tap classes.
According to Sears, that is what sets them apart from the rest. “As the founder and the artistic director, my focus is not to have 100 students in my studio but to have small classes, so that students get the most attention in training. My students in the Pre-Professional Program have had opportunities to dance in New Mexico, Las Vegas, The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, dance for Diddy and Fabulous.”
Despite the achievements the relatively new school has been able to grant their students with, it is not the most important thing that Sears hopes the students of Elevé Dance Theater leave the academy with. Instead, Sears emphasizes fun, confidence, and “the belief that they are capable of achieving their dreams.”
Read more about Elevé Dance Theater here.
Photo Credit: Elevé Dance Theater/Instagram