Sometimes you just need to dance to inspire those around you. This is what six Lancaster dance groups plan to do by coming together for the “Be the Change” event, a benefit dance performance that will donate raised funds to the early childhood programs of Excentia’s S. June Smith Center. The Be the Change event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center (60 W. Cottage Ave., Millersville).
This event is co-sponsored by Alpha Sigma Alpha, Millersville University (specifically through Experiential Learning and Career Management) and Encore Dance Center. Tickets for the event are $10 for adults, $5 for MU students with ID and $5 for children/K-12 students. Tickets can be purchased on MUTicketsOnline.com, at the SMC Ticket Office or by visiting the Ware Center Box Office (42 N. Prince St., Lancaster).
The early childhood programs of Excentia’s S. June Smith Center provide therapeutic and educational services for children with developmental needs and encourage their full participation in the arts community. The Be the Change event came about through Lancaster Encore Dance Center’s search to support an organization. Every year, the Encore Dance Center aims to perform a dance fundraiser, donating raised funds to the organization they choose to support. This year, dance teacher, Greta Smith, suggested to Encore’s artistic director and owner, Alvina Kline that they choose the S. June Smith Center— the school where Max, her 4-year-old son, attends. Max, who has autism, is given a chance to learn and grow every day through the early intervention services he receives at S. June Smith Center.
When Millersville University’s ELCM Interim Director, Melissa Wardwell, heard about the event, she was excited to help with the process. Wardwell planned to not just help with the venue and planning process, but wanted the interaction between the sponsors to be “a journey over time.” To create a bond prior to the show, Alpha Sigma Alpha education majors and Encore Dance students visited Excentia’s S. June Smith Center for two days of shared experiences and classroom volunteering.
The children at the center were able to receive special attention, the Encore Dance students were able to visit the school they were supporting and the Alpha Sigma Alpha sisters were able to apply classroom knowledge and experience. In addition, two student broadcasting majors were responsible for creating, editing and producing a five minute video of the students volunteering at S. June Smith Center, which will be shown at the beginning of the performance.
“We wanted to get involved as service to the community and to promote student civic engagement. This is so much more than just producing and performing a dance show, it also provided learning experiences for students. It was a collaborative partnership between the University, local business and a community non-profit organization, but more importantly it supports children with developmental needs and it is going to be an incredibly uplifting and entertaining show.”
Heather Widdoes, president of Alpha Sigma Alpha, was excited that her sorority would have the opportunity to support their humanitarian effort.
“Our chapter jumped at the chance because we love the S. June Smith Center and believe it is important to support such an amazing school,” she said. As one of the co-sponsors, Alpha Sigma Alpha was responsible for reserving the venue and acting as the event staff at the Winter Center, while the Disability Student Union (DSU), a new student organization at MU, paid for technical and equipment fees.
The Encore Dance Center is responsible for the overall dance production and behind the scenes of the show. The Encore Performance Company consists of 42 dancers who range in age from 9 to 18 that will be dancing to popular songs such as “Wings,” “Car Wash,” “Poker Face” and many more. The other dance groups that will be performing include: Millersville University’s Essence, Expressions, FUSION, Footprints and the Millersville University Dance Team, the Hooley School of Irish Dance and a professional dance company, NetCo.
The MU Dance Team, a club sport that dances at MU basketball games and participates in the MU homecoming parade every year, helped sell “Be the Change” T-shirts at a basketball game and performed at half time to build excitement for the event.
“ The MU dance team is really looking forward to showing everyone the dance we are performing. We are excited about this because the dance we are performing at the show is also the dance we are taking to compete with at NDA Nationals in Florida. This will be the first time we are performing this dance in front of a large group of people. We are also looking forward to raising money for such a great cause and anxious to see how much will be raised” said Jackie McNelis, president of the MU Dance Team.
Anyae Broomer, an avid dancer who is vice president of dance team FUSION and president of the dance group Footprints, was excited when she was extended an invitation for both of her organizations to participate.
“What I look forward to the most is not only to have fun and enjoy this opportunity to perform with all of the other local performers and dance teams, but to see the change we make together as a whole in the lives of these children with developmental needs. From FUSION, the audience can expect to see us perform with the art of making rhythm and beats with our hands and feet without the requirement of music. From Footprints, the audience can expect to see a spiritual liturgical dance with us spinning and raising our arms to the sky with the expectation to give glory to God,” Broomer said.
Sammie Scheller, president of Expression Dance, a group of dancers that participate in events around campus and produces their own performances, is also looking forward to this event.
“I’m excited to see who else is involved and what other performances there are too see. Our dance is contemporary to the song “Man in the Mirror.” Our captain picked it because it was deep and related to the theme well. I think people can also expect just an overall great show. I know the MU dance team and Essence dance has some great dances too” she said.
What Wardwell is most looking forward to is the finale song, “Just Be” which encompasses the theme for the entire production, “I cannot wait for the finale to see the S. June Smith Center children dancing on stage, surrounded by all of the Encore, Millersville and other dancers, with everyone wearing “Be the Change” T-shirts and celebrating the inclusion of these children in the community of performers. I hope that this moment will project our show’s theme: “Be The Change.”
While attending this event, make sure to further support Excentia’s S. June Smith Center by purchasing a Be the Change T-shirt or by buying raffle tickets to win one of many donated raffle prize baskets during the intermission. Learn more about Excentia’s S. June Smith Center and how you can help by visiting their website at http://www.ourexcentia.org/s-june-smith-center/.