Eleven-year-old Quin spent her summer at the Christine Jones-Meneer School of Dance in Munroe Falls. Ashley Prado, her mom, says that Quin’s been dancing since age 3 and loves being able to express herself in new ways.
“She’s currently going to summer camp, where she and some other girls are taking student choreography,” Prado says. “They love being trusted enough to find and cut their own music and make up dance routines. They get to pick their props, hairstyles and costumes, and will perform at the end of camp. They’re learning to work together, which is good for anything that they may do in the future.”
Prado, who also danced, says that things are different from when she was her daughter’s age.
“The technology is crazy different and it’s so much more media driven now,” she says. “They have access to much more music and there are so many different ways to make it interesting. Through social media, she can watch others and tweak what they do. She and her friends make videos all of the time. When I was younger, there was just a cassette.”
Lucas, 9, loves to perform at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, says his mom Sarah Cook. She shares that although he’s been quite focused on his academics, he’s really interested in dance, which isn’t surprising since Lucas comes from a family of classically trained dancers.
“Lucas loves tap and hip hop, but for him, things are less strict and technical,” she says. “It’s more about the performance.”
Cook adds that as a performer, Lucas is developing in other ways like acting and drumming, and he has no issue with confidence.
“He has a knack for rhythm,” she says. “The first time that he hit a drum set, he slid right into the fundamentals. He’ll be starting drumming this fall. As for acting, he picks up on lines pretty easily and isn’t afraid in front of a crowd.”
Many young dancers are progressively becoming more well rounded by discovering new, related interests. By doing things like producing videos, organizing routines and playing instruments, children are focused on more than simply nailing the audition or performance; it’s about being more creative in an ever-advancing technological world.
By developing these professional techniques, kids also can learn to cultivate additional skills as a byproduct of their dance experience.
Just one in seven dancers are self-employed because doing so means having to wear many hats to succeed in an already highly competitive industry.
Dancers like Kendrick Clevor, now a rising Hollywood choreographer/dancer, learned early on how being multifaceted, fearless and open to change will take you far on your journey. Although today he works with artists such as Keke Palmer, Iggy Azalea and Hayley Kiyoko, he remembers how it all started.
“I was originally accepted into the Cleveland School of the Arts for singing, but one day I saw a dance troupe perform at a Show Wagon summer event and I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he says. “Up to that point I had no training, but I auditioned in my 10th grade year and was accepted. After school, through the All-City Arts program I learned technique, including modern, contemporary and ballet. In 2011, I graduated and enrolled as a vocal major with a dance minor at Kent State University, but I wasn’t satisfied.”
In 2012, when The American Musical & Dramatic Academy came to Cleveland for auditions, Clevor found himself doing a monologue and singing. He was accepted, and after organizing a benefit concert with a friend, they raised $2,000 and headed to Los Angeles.
Facing many twists and turns, Clevor began taking dance classes at IDA Hollywood, where he took his talent to the next level and was signed to the Movement Talent Agency.
“That’s when I officially began my career as a professional dancer, but although I’d gotten directed to several auditions, I didn’t book a job,” he says. “The same dancers were being picked at every audition. There was so much I had to learn. I didn’t have headshots and needed to make money, so I bought a camera.”
That camera ended up being the way that Clevor introduced himself to the world through social media. He started recording and posting all of his classes at the IDA Hollywood studio, taking headshots for himself and other dancers and shooting their videos to make ends meet.
“After I bought the camera, the quality of my recordings increased and I started getting noticed,” he says. “A singer, Hayley Kiyoko, liked my work and contacted me. That was my first professional music video. I cast and booked it on my own. Word spread and the next thing I knew, I was performing at the BET Awards. I was being taken more seriously and developing my brand through Instagram.”
Clevor transitioned into choreography by making dance routines to perform at clubs and festivals, then being approached by Soul Train Dancer Mo Que for his first paid job. Afterward, he began teaching at the same studio where he first took classes in L.A.
Tap into Skills
Aside from being a way to express one’s self through art, dancing also is a profession. As reported by collegegrad.com, dancers and choreographers held about 20,100 jobs in 2014. Through 2024, employment is expected to grow 5 percent for dancers and 6 percent for choreographers. About half of dancers and choreographers work in schools and performing arts companies, however, a growing interest in dance and in pop culture may provide a wider range of opportunities. That interest is expected to lead to increased enrollment in dance schools, which in turn should create more jobs.
In addition to traditional performances in front of a live audience, many dancers perform on TV, in videos on the Internet, and in music videos, where they also may sing or act. Young performers who want a future in the industry can be inventive and learn to incorporate other skills. Dancers can tap into some of the following opportunities:
Marketing. Develop a strong web presence and use social media and videography to become a part of the online dance community.
Singing and acting. This may be a way to land roles in plays or get accepted in schools or programs.
Producing, hosting and networking. Learning how to get the audiences in and collaborating with others in the same field means more word-of-mouth referrals and being more organized.
In the world of dance, talent gets you in but creativity, interpersonal skills, leadership skills and persistence is helpful to stay ahead.
Today Clevor is providing opportunities for other up-and-coming choreographers through his monthly event called Friday Night Raw, the first of its kind in L.A.
“Opportunities are not really given to newcomers and they have a hard time showcasing their work, so I created a way,” he says. “Now I’ve discovered yet another passion — hosting.”
Engaging Minds Through Dance
There are a plethora of benefits for children taking up dance, with physical development being at the top of the list. According to dancetoevolve.com, dancers reportedly have an increase in range of motion along with body awareness, balance, muscle strength, coordination, and endurance.
Another advantage that young dancers have is the opportunity to strengthen social awareness by working together in groups and learning to support and respect others as they move through the same space. Young artists also are given a structured outlet for a healthy physical and emotional release that helps develop emotional maturity.
“Our goal is to have them do more than physically learn the art of dance but to also engage their minds,” says Kelly Meneer, instructor at Meneer School of Dance, and also the Ballet Mistress of the Ballet Theatre of Ohio. “We try to push them and open up little light boxes in their brains. Most of our students are on the honor roll and even if they don’t choose to pursue dance in middle school or high school, they are usually fantastic athletes. They’re usually among the best on their teams because of their coordination skills.”
Whether sports or dance, teamwork is essential. Meneer feels that activities such as ballet help her students become more sensitive to how they are interacting with their fellow dancers and in the world at large.
“In our Nutcracker and spring performances, the CORPS ballet dancers have to breathe together and feel each other,” she says. “Their lines have to be exactly the same, not just in relation to the audience and the stage, but also their head and leg lines have to match. They look at each other in the mirror and work together as a group. From our senior dancers down to the 3-year-olds, although they are not handing things off to one another, it’s more about using their energy to make a series of beautiful pictures.”
Christine Meneer, owner of the Meneer School of Dance and the Artistic Director of the Ballet Theatre of Ohio, shares how the art encourages dancers to strive for excellence. “The discipline from ballet training is the best asset that any dancer comes out with,” she says. “They learn to multitask by having to remember approximately 15 to 20 different things at once. It’s high-level training. Most of my dancers in high school are straight A students and go on to be high-level professionals like doctors. It’s amazing to see the dancers evolve and go on to be the best of the best.”
Looking for dance and other enrichment activities for your kids? Check out our Northeast Ohio Enrichment Activities Guide.