When I was a little girl not even grade school age, I fell in love with dance. There was nothing more captivating. At 5 I wanted ballet and tap lessons. I have a vague memory of maybe one class but the overall attitude, because I was overweight, was that I could never be a ballerina so why take dance.
My love for dance never diminished. As a young child, I was captivated by old movies that featured dancers like Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller and scores of others. I loved to watch Buzby Berkley’s choreography and that era’s music spectaculars. From grade school through high school I learned every dance style. As a young adult, marriage and motherhood took me in another direction but I never gave up my love for all kinds of dance and met my husband while out dancing to reggae music.
Since my kids are grown, I’ve had the opportunity to renew my love of dance and my goal to choreograph music. For the past several years I’ve taken contact improv, jazz, modern, dancing with disabilities, performance workshop, video choreography and several choreography classes.
When a friend of mine died some years ago, I learned that she took up skydiving at 50 and had donated a kidney to a stranger. It made me think of what I had done and what I could do to pay for the gift of my life. What better than to give young girls the things I wanted so badly as a child and was denied because of stereotypical expectations of how a dancer should look and perform. My confidence was eroded from a young age and things I might have done I didn’t do because I didn’t believe in myself.
Leap of Joy wants to change all that. Children should learn at a young age to have confidence and self-esteem no matter their physical, social and economic circumstances – not false bravado but a deeper level of belief in themselves. This dance program for at-risk youth is a ray of hope and a safe haven to find joy and self-acceptance in an environment that fosters academic assistance, creativity, physical conditioning and movement, nutrition with fresh seasonal fruits and vegetable snacks and furnished costumes.
I have learned that the gifts I receive from these children are greater than the gifts they receive through this program.
JOIN US AND TAKE A LEAP OF JOY. LET’S BE THE ONES WHO MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE.
– Judy Richardson, Director of Leap of Joy
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Our organization Leap of Joy, a 501(c)3 nonprofit since 2010 offers dance and theater arts after school and summer camp enrichment programs to at-risk youth in underserved schools in Austin, TX. Since 2010, our program has been funded through grants from AISD, City of Austin, Texas Commission on The Arts, Target, A Glimmer of Hope, fundraising and private donations. Leap of Joy is moving to give at-risk youth empowerment and self-acceptance through dance and performance arts.