A children's dance class also focuses on body image and self-respect

While others pursue dance to become professional performers, UC Irvine student Irishia Hubbard has another goal in mind: to become a teacher.

She and Nicole Rivor, who graduated from UC Irvine in June, teamed up in late May to co-found Shining Stars, a free week-long program that teaches local youth the basics of dance but also lessons in body image, confidence and self-acceptance.

Hubbard and six other UC Irvine dance students and graduates started instructing the program's classes at the campus' Claire Trevor School of the Arts on Monday.

"We wanted to use this opportunity to not only teach dance but to learn how to teach dance," Rivor said. "There aren't a lot of classes on how to teach and that's really the bread and butter of a dancer."

Hubbard, who plans to become a dance professor, drafted a proposal for the program and submitted it to Sheron Wray, an assistant professor of dance at UC Irvine, in May. She originally sent the proposal in for a scholarship opportunity.

Although Hubbard did not receive the scholarship, Wray took an interest in her idea.

"She was determined and she already had a strong vision of what she wanted," Wray said.

She suggested that Hubbard continue developing the proposal with Rivor, a former dance student who has assisted Wray in coordinating other dance programs.

The two re-drafted the proposal more than five times, homing in on details such as the budget for meals and supplies, liability policies, community outreach to help potential students apply to the program and requiring that teachers complete background checks.

Hubbard and Rivor got the approval to run Shining Stars after sending the final proposal in June to the arts school's assistant dean, Deborah Sunday Stansbury; Chair of the Dance Department Lisa Naugle; and Facilities Director Toby Weiner.

To find students for the August classes, the women sent applications to nonprofit organizations in several cities.

Shining Stars received more than 130 applicants, Rivor said. The program took about 55 students.

For the first half of the day, the program is split into two classes, one for ages 5 to 8 and the other for ages 9 to 12. Both classes learn steps and movements of ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop.

While some students may not have the means to purchase tap or ballet shoes for the class, Hubbard said they can still learn.

"It's not about having the best attire," she said. "With tap, their tennis shoes still make sounds, beats and rhythm. They're still grasping the genre."

Victor Garcia, 11, from Santa Ana said he had never taken a dance class before and that his school does not offer them.

"I feel inspired after every dance class here," Garcia said. "And it's like exercise but in a fun way."

The second half of the day is spent in creative workshops, where all the students come together for a variety of exercises.

For Wednesday's workshop, Hubbard and the teachers showed the class pictures of people with different body types. Some were what Hubbard described as "fit and athletic" and others "heavy set," but all were professional dancers and choreographers.

"Some of these students are very young and already I heard them make comments like, 'I can't do this style of dance because I'm not skinny,'" Hubbard said. "But we want to show them that what makes you a good dancer is confidence."

alexandra.chan@latimes.com
Chan writes for Times Community News.

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