SOUTH : Grant to Fund Free Youth Dance School

Universal Dance Design, a Fairfax-area free summer dance school that caters to South Los Angeles children, received a $15,000 grant last week to continue the program through September.

The school, formerly based in Compton and now at 6009 W. Olympic Blvd., teaches children teamwork, discipline and self-esteem through dance, said Paul Kennedy, who heads the 14-year-old program.

Kennedy and his sister Arlene instruct local 7- to 16-year-olds who come from foster homes, juvenile probation centers, church groups and the Watts-Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club.

“It’s a two-month project of intense dance study,” said Arlene Kennedy. “We’ll have them performing by the last weekend of September.”


Although they had originally planned for no more than 40 young dancers, the studio ended up with nearly 60 youths. “How could we say no?” she said.

The Kennedys and six other instructors are coaching their new students--most of whom have had no previous dance experience--in tap, hip-hop, jazz, ballet and modern dance.

The dance school will use the money from a Community Development Block Grant through County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke’s office to buy tap and ballet shoes, food, leotards and other equipment, Paul Kennedy said.

“It’s important for the children to feel the artistic quality of having the proper equipment and also that they feel part of the program,” said Kennedy, who has been teaching dance for 40 years.


He said that in the creative setting of dance and music, racial barriers are broken down, resulting in a new level of communication.

“We find that the children--when they are in an artistic environment--don’t have to compete as much and are able to give more of themselves,” he said.

The school is planning a late September dance concert at a Hollywood theater to culminate the summer session.

“Hopefully we will get more attention and more funding so that we can have a year-round program,” Paul Kennedy said.


Information: (213) 938-6508.