Danielle Willis is a dancer whose passion for teaching young people has inspired her to take steps you won’t find in any routine.
Sometime early next year, Willis, 27, a Riverside resident, hopes to complete the paperwork to create a nonprofit dance company called Dancing on a Dream that would provide minority children of low-income families with the opportunity to “achieve their dreams” on and off the stage.
Willis, who was raised in Riverside and returned there after attending college in Maryland, teaches dance at the Riverside Arts Council and the Riverside YMCA, and also offers private lessons. Classes in ballet, contemporary, jazz and hip hop are available for children 6 to 17 years of age. The fees for lessons vary, but are kept as low as possible, she said.
The dance company, funded by donations and grants, would allow more young people to learn and perform dance.
After some of her students from Ramona High School performed successfully at the Riverside Arts and Innovation Mayors Ball in October, she thought, “Hmm, this is so cool. I feel so humbled to be a small instrument in their growth. What would happen if people got behind me?”
From that question, the idea for Dancing on a Dream emerged.
She is in the process of forming a board of directors for Dancing on a Dream, and is taking courses on forming a 501(c)(3). To promote the nonprofit, she has developed a Christmas-themed dance show titled “Love is Christmas.” The show was performed last week at the Mission Inn as part of the Festival of Lights, and it prompted “lots of compliments,” Willis said.
A second show at the Mission Inn will be held tonight, Friday, Dec. 28, from 6:30 to 7 p.m. The public is invited to enjoy the skills of 13 young dancers as they perform holiday routines. There is no charge.
Willis’ desire to use dance as a way to increase the quality of life for youth that may not otherwise have the opportunity is yet another example of Riverside’s caring and compassionate nature, and the connected spirit created by sharing an appreciation for the arts and culture that permeate throughout the community.
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