By Dedra Cordle
Three teenagers are trying to make a difference in the lives of others through a shared love of dance.
Their mission began innocuously enough when a call for performers for the annual talent show at Briggs High School went over the public announcement system. Having been involved in dance since she was 5, sophomore Lanae Turner knew she wanted to be included in the showcase.
“I wanted my friends to join me though,” said Turner, 15, with a laugh.
After asking around, she found two willing participants in Desiree Thompson, a cheerleader at the school, and Sharerisa Newell, who was on the drill team. Though all were used to performing in front of the crowd, the duo and Turner relied on each other whenever it dawned on them that they would actually be dancing in front of all of their peers.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without them,” said Thompson, 16.
Over the course of a few weeks, the group of friends whipped up their own choreography, set it to music and practiced until they said were almost sick of the routine. It was during one of those multitude of practice sessions that a greater idea popped into their heads.
As a child growing up in Dayton, Turner says she was not always the happiest of people.
“I wasn’t this smiling, positive and confident person that I am now,” she explained.
She credits her involvement in dance with her shift in personality.
“It was my coping skill; my relief, really.”
Knowing that her friends felt the same way she did, they started tossing out ideas on how they could help others that were wading through life’s struggles.
“I said we should start our own dance group as kinda a joke, but then it became less so,” said Turner.
Having used The Center, an after-school and summer recreation hub on the westside, as a base for a few of their dance practices, Turner knew how much of an impact it had on children her age and younger.
“I thought it would be a great place to start our dance group,” she said.
With their blossoming idea in mind, the trio went before Rachel Muha, the founder of the Brian Muha Foundation/The Run the Race Club, with their request.
“We thought she would say no,” Turner admitted.
“I can’t believe they thought I would say no,” said Muha, shaking her head and smiling.
Since opening The Center several years ago, Muha said the growth of activities has largely come from suggestions from the children and young adults who use the facility as a home away from home.
“They’re one of the reasons why we have so many things to do,” she said, referring to their art room, music room, library, salon, science lab and imagination room.
She said it was only fair that they have a dance studio as well.
“I know that dance can change lives and give people a sense of confidence that they might not get elsewhere.”
Shortly after their talent show performance, the trio got to work forming the DLS dance team and have been hard at work teaching boys and girls to dance ever since.
“I really enjoy what we’re doing and how far they have come,” said Newell.
“It’s nice to know that we’re helping children find a passion,” added Thompson.
For several days a week, Turner, Newell and Thompson go over routines with original choreography, praise their budding skills and establish a relationship beyond the art form.
“We want to be here for them and give them someone to look up to,” said Turner. “It’s really important for us they we are good role models for them.”
Muha said she has no doubt that they are living up to their personal example.
“It’s amazing what they are doing for these kids,” she said, “and I cannot wait to see what else they can achieve.”