The Rapidian

Step-Up Youth Productions provides outlet for creativity, physical activity

Through the modalities of dance, performance, and production, Step-Up Youth Productions teaches kids team-building and other life-long skills
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About NPO Showcase

NPO Showcase highlights nonprofit and government organizations and the work that they're doing in our community. The program is a feature of GRTV, a service of the Community Media Center, with producer and host Julie Way. You can catch it on GRTV on Saturdays at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and can view past episodes on the Grand Rapids Community Media Center website. If your nonprofit would like to be interviewed on NPO Showcase, please contact Julie Way.

A young girl in a puffy ball gown shows off her elegant waltzing skills. Next, a teenage couple swirls by to the tune of a classic song. Then, an 8 year old boy does the jive, perfectly in time to the fast-paced music playing.

These are scenes from a recent performance and fundraiser held by Step-Up Youth Productions, a nonprofit that provides instruction in ballroom and social dance to kids ages 6-18. Kids learn a variety of classic styles such as the foxtrot, as well as Latin styles like the cha-cha, salsa and samba.

“The kids get an opportunity to learn something really unique that they don’t normally get an opportunity to get exposure to,” says Jordan Vander Ven, Programs Director and CFO of Step-Up Youth Productions. “They learn timing, musicality, partnership skills [and] how to actually dance the steps to the different styles of dance. We also teach them the sociability of the dance itself.”

“Maybe one child has better leg extension, or one has better arm styling,” says Lewis Richards, Board President of Step-Up Youth Productions. “But when they learn how they can use those skills to help each other, it creates a unique team-building opportunity. It helps them feel like they have accomplished something as a group, instead of, ‘I didn’t do this as [well] as somebody else.’”

“They’re learning the value of each other,” says Vander Ven.

The program operates out of Social Dance Studio and is held after school for an hour each week. The program is open to any child who wants to participate. Step-Up Youth Productions also has an outreach program where they take the instruction on the road, offering customized workshops for groups at schools, churches, or other organizations.

“We walk into an environment with 30-40 kids, and show them how they can use their bodies in a different way.” says Richards. “We’ll start with clapping their hands, or stomping their feet so they can actually feel the rhythm, and then getting their bodies to move to those rhythms and timing and learning a different dance.”

“They’re learning skills that they will use in their everyday life, but it’s something that’s fun, so it offers a non-traditional way of learning.”

All staff and volunteers have dance and performance experience themselves, which helps provide a positive role-model and a self-esteem boost for kids.

“Every child deserves that opportunity to feel loved, and a sense of confidence, and to be told they’re funny,” says Richards.

You can register your child with Step-Up Youth Productions by calling Social Dance Studio at 616.735.9090. Step-Up Youth Productions is also looking for other programs to partner with their outreach program.

Meet Vander Ven and Richards and learn more in GRTV’s NPO Showcase interview above, or catch it airing on GRTV and LiveWire. You can also follow Step-Up Youth Productions on Facebook.

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