At 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, the Allegro Dance Project will be performing its show titled “Forthcoming.” This performance marks the beginning of its fifth season on the stage, and in addition to dancing, the performance will have a variety of other acts tied to the circus arts. In the lobby, a silent auction will be held, and funds collected from this will go to benefit the Allegro Dance Project’s Inclusive Dance Outreach program.
Jeana Klevene serves as the project’s founder and artistic director, having started it five years ago. The Allegro Dance Project’s main goal is inclusion as Klevene strives to include children of all ages, backgrounds and especially children with specific needs.
“Dance is very exclusive, and it bothered me,” Klevene said.
She wanted to do something about that, to open the world of dancing to all children. The project has grown immensely over a short time, from its first year, where it taught 50 children, to now teaching a total of 350 children.
In addition to the stage performances, Klevene teaches classes through the Adaptive Dance Program, also part of the Allegro program. There, she teaches the kids different dance moves, some of which relate to the performance that is held later, such as “Forthcoming” and others before it. In each class, a musician plays music and the kids join in when they aren’t dancing for a small jam session, making percussion sounds with their bodies, a sort of impromptu hambone dance. The musicians, three of the five in total, will also appear at tonight’s performance to provide musical accompaniment for the dancers. Those three will be joined by three other musicians who do not regularly work with the program.
The Allegro Program also features an Inclusive Dance Outreach, where Klevene and others go to the surrounding schools to spread the word of the program and its mission. This has allowed for much of the program’s growth, as the outreach continuously grows to appear at increasingly more schools each season.
Kate Cox, a University of Kentucky junior majoring in agricultural and medical biotechnology and pursuing a minor in dance, has worked with the project in some capacity since its founding five years prior. She was taking classes at the Bluegrass Youth Ballet when Klevene started teaching there, also around the time she started the project. Cox has recently started also attending the Adaptive Dance Program in the last year, and she notes that seeing the kids on stage performing is her favorite part.
“It’s important to have opportunities for populations that wouldn’t normally have opportunities [like this],” Cox said regarding the project’s main focus of inclusion.
One parent, David Taylor, whose child joined last year, remarked on the importance of the project.
“You’ve got the health aspect, but with this program, [the kids are] interacting with typical dancers,” he said.
Taylor mentioned that the kids gain a lot, as do the “typical dancers,” listing out the friendships that form between them all, and the learning experiences that all parties involved receive. He also talked about the awareness it gives the dancers, how working with the children with specific needs helps them realize that they have quite a bit in common, and how it pushes them to be more open with the idea of inclusion.
Tonight’s show will be showcasing this inclusivity that the project strives to spread to all. Its message is simple: “We Move to Move You!” It lets the dancing and joy on the kids’ faces do the rest of the talking. Tickets cost $20 at the door.