Portland East End kids hip-hop into afterschool program

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PORTLAND — The cafeteria at the East End Community School was a little chaotic Monday afternoon, with kids wiggling and turning cartwheels while music blared in the background.

But it was a controlled chaos, part of a six-week hip hop dance program offered by Portland Youth Dance to a group of kids who take part in LearningWorks’ after-school enrichment program.

“These kids, their attention spans are a little short,” said LearningWorks afterschool programming Director Amy Klodzinski. “But with kids teaching kids, they really focus.”

The hip hop dance class is taught by volunteer high school students from Portland Youth Dance. While PYD has been offering outreach for several years, this is the first time they have paired with LearningWorks.

“We usually do our outreach classes at Casco Bay Movers (studio),” said Susan Thompson-Brown, the PYD director. But through a series of personal connections, they were hooked up with the LearningWorks program.

About 15 third, fourth and fifth graders take part in the hip hop dance lessons, taught by six high school dancers. The kids are part of a larger group – about 60 – enrolled in LearningWorks East End after school program for youth identified as struggling with school work. It is also offered at Riverton and Reiche elementary schools, where participants number 120 and 60, respectively.

“They miss homework time for this,” said Klodzinski. “But it’s enrichment, and that’s part of the program, too.”

On Monday the kids were hard at work perfecting their dance routines for a March 14 show. They will perform two routines and the show will also feature dancers from Portland Youth Dance Company. The show, at the East End School, begins at 3:30 p.m., and is open to the public.

Winston Dinizio, a fourth grader taking part in the dance class, was enthusiastically following instructions Monday. He said he likes all kinds of dancing, and would be interested in taking classes different from hip hop.

“I like the free dance,” he said, when asked what his favorite part of the classes have been.

Klodzinski pointed out that most of the kids in the LearningWorks program are of a lower income bracket and do not always have the means to take part in dance and other activities.

“We’d love to work with (PYD) again,” said Klodzinski. She said she’d also like to expand the dance component to Reiche and Riverton, if PYD was interested.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net

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Winston Dinizio takes part in an afterschool dance class at the East End Community School. The class is taught by volunteers from Portland Youth Dance.