“It started off with my first ballet class when I was a toddler to growing up cheering for pop warner and praise dancing at church,” said Jasmine Adway, director and choreographer at Just Loving Choreography Dance Company (JLC). “I knew at a young age I was passionate about dancing and had a dream of having a dance company.”
In 2011, Adway made that dream a reality, founding JLC with the hopes of creating a dance company in the inner-city that would train local talent to compete across the globe. The non-profit teaches youth, ages 5-16, a variety of dance genres that seeks to capture the heart, mind and soul of the youth of today and the youth of the future.
One of the goals of the organization is to bring art back into the community in a way that the kids can embrace and can make their own.
“Music and dance is such a big part of who we are as a people,” said Adway. “A lot of times when we think about dance, we think about ballet, tap and jazz, and that is part of what we do here, but we also channel the power of Hip-Hop and crunk and give our dancers the opportunity to express themselves in a way that connects with the soundtrack of their community.”
Accessibility is key for Adway, which is why the dance company is one of the few available to inner-city youth that does not hold auditions, nor charges for classes.
“This dance company is committed to creating an opportunity in the inner city where young boys and girls can learn the art of dance, navigate a path towards a career in dance, and where dance is used to motivate, educate, inspire, challenge and enrich the lives of our youth so they can become successful and productive,” said Adway. “I believe so strongly in building up the entire person, which is why we also offer tutoring and mentorship programs.”
As a dancer, herself, Adway understands how participating in a dance company can not only help a young person blossom, but give them a safe space to grow and thrive.
“So many of my youth come through the door one way and end up just opening up in a way that I never expected,” said Adway. “I just had a group of girls start this year, each with their own story, all shy, with reserved personalities, and it has just been a joy to watch them improving in areas they have struggled with. Not only have they been developing more rhythm and being more comfortable with being in front of crowds, they have created such special bond with each other. It just makes me so happy to see how supportive they have become of each other. It is a real sisterhood.”
In the past few years, the dance company has slowly become a force to be reckoned with, winning more than 30 trophies from competitions. But as the dance company grows, so does the amount of resources they need.
“My goal is not to charge people because they really don’t have the funds, so I often take on the financial burdens, and despite the fluctuation in the number of participants, I still have to stay the course,” said Adway. “We need more sponsorships. These youth are so committed, and they deserve to go as far as they can. Everybody is always talking about the importance of getting our youth to channel their energy into something positive. Here is a program that is literally tapping into our kids’ passions and changing lives. Here is a chance for people in the community to be a part of the change they say they want to see.”
In fact, creating a platform for youth, who may be at-risk for taking a more destructive path, to be their best selves is one of the things Adway is most proud of.
“I see how the youth who participate in our dance company gain respect, confidence, and faith,” said Adway. “We have lots of heart to heart moments during practice. JLC is deeper than a set of moves and competitions, we make sure that everyone feels empowered and confident and that our kids know that that anything worth having is worth the effort.”