lu-welters_web.jpgThis weekend will mark a new beginning for a group of dance students who not too long ago thought a heartbreaking end was near.

Six months ago, the Jubilee Dance Theatre – which trains young people to become dancers – lost the space where it held classes in a predominantly black, low-income neighborhood.

Since December, when its contract with the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale was not renewed, the troupe has been practicing at the Meg Segreto’s Dance Centre in Davie.

At first, parents said they were devastated because the library was the ideal location for their children to learn African-American dances and culture, and to receive lessons in discipline, self-awareness, problem-solving techniques and etiquette.

Yet while the displacement posed numerous distance-related inconveniences, most of the students and their parents, some coming from as far as Miami, have made the transition.

This weekend, the group will celebrate its fifth anniversary with the show From the Inside-Out. The performance, which takes place this Friday, June 20 and Saturday, June 21, will mark the troupe’s first program at the Hollywood Central Performing Arts Center.

The distance to the dance theatre in Davie might have created a hurdle for the group’s training efforts, but it’s one that members are overcoming.

“I think it’s the love of what they’re doing and their dedication coupled with the environment that we’re providing that’s kept them with us, because if they didn’t like what they were doing, they wouldn’t come,’’ said Luctricia ‘Miss Lu’ Welters, director and instructor at the Jubilee Dance Theatre.

“Almost all of the students still make it out to the theatre even with the current high gas prices,” said Welters, who won an African-American Achievers award last year from JM Family Enterprises, which recognized her contributions to the arts and culture. “We’ve lost some students with the move, but we’ve also gained some. So it kind of balanced itself out. But I know that when we have one place that’s stable and constant, we’ll have more people because they’ll always be able to know where they can find us.”

Organizers at the dance troupe’s new venue say the students are a welcome addition.

“What they’re doing is outstanding and we are happy to provide a space for them,’’ said Lucy Mancuso, manager of Meg Segreto’s Dance Centre. “They've been practicing here every Saturday since December, and we’ve enjoyed their special company.’’

Jubilee Dance Theatre, Inc. is a non-profit founded in February 2003 by Welters and the dance troupe’s assistant artistic director, Claudine Carter-Pereira. The multicultural company’s main goals are to educate its audience through entertainment, and to bring awareness to political, social and other poignant issues by working with dancers from all backgrounds and cultures. The group uses a variety of dance styles, including ballet, modern, jazz and hip-hop.

Welters, along with the troupe’s collaborative partners, Write-Side Poets – a non-profit that seeks to inspire, assist and encourage young writers to express themselves through spoken word art – is currently working with the city of Lauderhill to move into a new location by October.

The groups plan to occupy more than 1,800 square feet in two storefronts. They plan to convert the space into a dance studio that will double as a performance center.

Ray Dominguez, founder of Write-Side Poets, said, “We’ve decided to name the place ‘The Village.’ There, we’ll do poetry, acting, dancing, film, photography and music. It will also have an after-school tutoring program.”

During the dance troupe’s brief homeless period, which Welters’ friends now describe as a disguised blessing, the group also established a new partnership with H.A.N.D.Y. (Helping
Abused and Neglected Disadvantaged Youth), a non-profit in Fort Lauderdale.

“We partnered up with ‘Miss Lu’ because we were looking for an opportunity for our young girls to do something different,” said Lansey Brewster, activity planner for H.A.N.D.Y. “The girls go once a week and they really enjoy it. It boosts their self-esteem and confidence, and it gives them an incentive to do other things, especially since they have to maintain good grades to dance. We are actually looking into the possibilities for them going twice a week.”

Of the partnership, Welters also said, “The kids are being blessed and gaining self-esteem. I know all of them might not grow up to be dancers or pursue theater, but it’s the other aspects that they take with them that are priceless. Here, they gain creativity and express themselves more.”

At the show this weekend, there will be premier pieces from the dance troupe’s junior ensemble titled “Listen and Breathe,’’ and H.A.N.D.Y.’s “Taking Control Just for You.’’ The troupe will also perform audience favorites “Risen,’’ “Long Journey Home’’ and “Empty Room,’’ as well as the company’s signature piece, “Out of the Box.’’

The troupe, in association with Write-Side Poets and world-renowned visual artist Jonathan Green, will also premier the pieces “Seeking’’ and “Shadows in the Sand.’’ This is a landmark collaborative effort that Green describes as “the beauty root of the living great oak tree.”

Dominguez said, “Write-Side Poets partnered up with Jubilee Dance Theatre to do poetry in motion, and for the show we got permission from Jonathan Green to take his paintings and use them as sort of a muse for our poetry and dance, and thus meld three genres – poetry, dance and art.”

Welters said she hopes to organize a state tour for her troupe next year as well as open up a dance school, and pay her dancers.

“To get that paycheck would be saying, ‘I appreciate your self-worth and I thank you for what you’ve done,’’’ Welters said. “Our dancers show up every Saturday because they appreciate what we’re doing for them, and I want to give back that same appreciation for them coming to those late-night rehearsals.”

Palmer.Shanique@Yahoo.com

Photo by Sumner Hutcheson III. Luctricia “Miss Lu” Welters, director and instructor at the Jubilee Dance Theatre, guides students through a ballet lesson.



IF YOU GO:

What: Jubilee Dance Theatre presents “From the Inside-Out”
Where: Hollywood Central Performing Arts Center, 1770 Monroe Street, Hollywood.
When: Friday, June 20, 2008 and Saturday, June 21, 2008 at 7:30 p.m.
Cost: Adults: $20, Students/Seniors: $18, Children under 10 years old: $15.
Contact: For ticket sales, by phone: 866-811-4111 or purchase tickets online at: https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/49491