Dreams come true at Dream Makers Dance

This summer, while other students are splashing in the pool or playing video games, the dancers at Dream Makers Dance in Columbiana will be twirling, kicking and clogging their way to the Country Tonite theater pre-show in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

This year marks the group’s sixth trip to the show; they competed and won at the state and national levels, and the manager of Country Tonight personally called to extend the group an invite.

To prepare for the show, the 20 summer travel dancers meet once a week in Elvin Hill Elementary School’s gymnasium to practice.

“You see what’s in here, nothing,” said Jenny Lespi, program director and dance teacher, pointing out the gym has no mirrors or bars. “Nothing but heart and soul.”

Dream Makers Dance is a community education program, contracted through the Shelby County Board of Education, that has been around for almost 20 years. During the school year, dancers meet in the gym after school every day.

The dancers, ranging in age from kindergarten to high school, do several types of dance including jazz, tap, ballet, lyrical, hip-hop and clogging.

Whatever their styles of dance, dancers are able to demonstrate their emotions through their movement.

“My favorite thing is letting everything go after school,” said Kasey Benson, a sophomore at Shelby County High School. Benson said she once cried through an entire dance routine because she felt so strongly about it.

The program has prepared many dancers to have skills they’ll use later in life. Students from Dream Makers Dance have gone on to dance in college and professionally, and one dancer even made it to the final selection round of “So You Think You Can Dance?” in Chicago.

“I was scared when I first got there, but the nerves went away when I started dancing,” said Racheal Trice, 23, who started dancing at Dream Makers when she was five years old. “It made me really appreciate what I have here, not just teaching these girls to dance, but also teaching them to be young ladies,” Trice said.

Dancers at Dream Makers pay monthly dues, which go to paying rent for the gym and other necessities, but they always need more financial support.

“These girls put their dance shoes on and a smile comes out,” said Cheryl Yednak, who brings her niece to every practice.

For more information, or to donate, contact Lespi at Jlespi@shelbyed.k12.al.us.