- [Announcer] This program is supported by the Indy Arts and Culture Restart and Resilience Fund, an Arts Council of Indianapolis program made possible by Lilly Endowment Incorporated.
- Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
(audience clapping) If you've ever watched a baby rocking itself to the rhythm of a song on the radio, then you already know one of the bedrock principles of Kids Dance Outreach.
We are born knowing how to dance.
(slow orchestral music) (baby squeals) Before we can speak, feed ourselves, or even walk on our own, we dance.
As infants and toddlers, we use our bodies to express both agony and ecstasy without self-consciousness, we dance, we all dance, and then we get to school and we're told to sit still.
Sit still, sit still.
- X, O, X, O.
- Unless you're one of the very lucky children attending a Kids Dance Outreach partner school, because at these schools, dance is for everyone.
At these schools, all you need is a pair of tennis shoes and your street clothes for the talented KDO staff to reinvigorate the dancer you've been since you were born.
No matter your ability, your economic status, your race, or your religion.
At Kids Dance Outreach schools, dance is an expression of self, of art and of democracy.
And I for one, applaud them heartily.
Can we give them another round?
(audience clapping) - This all happens in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.
It happens in the classrooms here.
It happens on the playgrounds here, It happens on stage in huge auditoriums.
(upbeat music) It happens in the heads, in hearts, in souls of kids all across the city.
I oughta know, I am one of those kids.
My name is Jayonna Zinerman.
That's J A Y O N N A Zinerman, and I'm a graduate of Kids Dance Outreach.
Kids Dance Outreach, maybe better known as KDO.
This is the Kids Dance Outreach story.
- They're ready, they're ready.
Let's see what's going on here.
There's a lot of people out there, showtime.
- [Jayonna] This is Michael Johnson, founding Director of Kids Dance Outreach, also known as KDO.
- One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
- The showtime he's talking about is the Kids Dance Outreach 2022 Event of the Year.
- KDO's Event of the Year is an annual celebration of just how much young people can accomplish when they're given the proper opportunity, encouragement, and instruction.
Tonight, these kids are in full command, center stage, in front of a standing room only audience, but what's happening here tonight had its beginnings not here, in a theater with bright lights and costumes and a full orchestra, but in classrooms, in school gyms, on playgrounds, whatever's available.
When we meet the children for the first time, and they meet us, it's not about rehearsing for any kind of big dance production like this one.
It's not about learning dance steps really at all.
It's actually much simpler than that.
More basic and much more important.
It's about giving kids the chance to stop sitting still, a chance to get up away from their desks and to do what comes naturally, to move.
- One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
- A lot of good happens when you just get up and move.
- I think movement as a whole is incredibly beneficial for kids and really it helps to improve every facet of our mental and emotional health.
It reduces stress, it decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression.
It boosts self-esteem.
It boosts cognitive performance and it's an overall amazing outlet for self-expression.
And personally, every time we work with KDO, I see all of those benefits trickle down to our kids.
- O, X, O, X.
Party, party, party, party, K D O.
- We started KDO because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people through the discipline of dance.
- Here we go, five, six, seven, go.
I was born in Richmond, Virginia and I was fortunate enough to have opportunities through scholarships to participate in arts programs.
And then I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to go to Butler University from dance, from the Arts.
So then I majored in Arts Administration and then I joined the Boston Ballet professionally and I got to dance there for 10 years.
And then I started teaching Boston Ballet's outreach programs.
Long about that time I got a call from Butler University asking me to come back to Indianapolis to be professor of dance at the dance department.
So I did that full-time for two years.
But as soon as I had moved back to Indianapolis, I saw that there was no high quality dance outreach programs that were being provided to children free of charge.
And I saw all of these children with energy and if nobody's giving them something positive to put their energy into, I said, well then we need to do that.
And then along about that time I reached out to Monica and I said, "Monica, what are you doing after you graduate from Butler University?"
- My name's Monica Munoz and I'm the Executive Director for Kids Dance Outreach.
- [Speaker] Monica.
- So I was born and raised in Puerto Rico.
My older sister Veronica started dancing and soon after I followed.
I don't actually recall ever not dancing.
I was sort of just there.
I was the little sibling that was there.
And so when I turned five, I started, you know, my ballet classes and I was a student at the Conservatory in Ballet Concierto, Puerto Rico.
Graduated high school and immediately decided I wanted to dance.
So I was a professional dancer with Milwaukee Ballet and later on with the Louisville Ballet and then decided to pursue a degree in dance.
So I graduated in 2013 from Butler University and stayed in Indianapolis.
And back then Michael sort of had this idea that he brought with him from his experience and his time in Boston.
And I was one of the people that he said, "you know, I have this pilot program I'm doing, are you interested at all in being part of this?"
- And here we are, 10 years later, we've served over 18,000 children.
And when you work so closely with somebody that's helping you build something, you know, many times things happen and romance flies and we eventually got married and we have a beautiful daughter named Valentina and she's three and a half.
- [Monica] Go, transition and roll.
- Michael and Monica, they're not trying to produce professional dancers.
They are trying to use dance as the catalyst for improving the community, building confidence in students and making schools better overall.
- [Monica] And go two, three, four, five, six, seven eight.
- What we do, we partner with elementary schools around Indianapolis and we go into the school and we work out a calendar with the school administration.
So we'll come for example, once a week for the entire semester and we'll work with third grade or second grade or fourth grade, whatever class it is.
- Dancers, well done, have a seat.
Who else has got it?
- So they'll come to the school for one hour a week.
Often when they come in to work with the students, many of the students have no experience with dance.
Many of the students are very reluctant at first, to participate but as they go along and Michael and Monica spend that time really building up their confidence, expecting the best from them because they do have very high standards of the students.
You'll slowly start to see over a few weeks, the students are looking forward to participating in Kids Dance Outreach.
- [Instructor] Five, six, seven, eight, front, home, front, home.
- [Instructor] Side, home, side.
- [Instructor] Do it again, one more time.
Go again, you go.
- [Instructor] Front, home.
- [Instructor] Give her a round of applause.
- So basically children will be with us for an entire semester and then their class is done.
Well, there's a lot of those children that experienced KDO in their school setting and they wanna continue with us.
- Children who participate in our introductory programs are at times invited through scholarships to be part of our advanced scholarship teams.
And there's two teams.
The first team is the SWAT Team and then the second team is the X-Team, which is the most advanced.
- And they still get to participate free of charge, but it's for those children that really want further and deeper experiences with Kids Dance Outreach.
And those children that joined the X-Team or the SWAT Team, are the children that you're gonna see in the big production at the Event of the Year.
- In 1938, Louie Armstrong took an old gospel spiritual and turned it into a timeless Dixieland jazz tune.
Saints came to life on this very stage back in 2019 when KDO performed the dynamic choreography by Ellen Weinstein in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance.
We've had many requests to see it again.
Well we heard you.
(upbeat jazz music) ♪ When the Saints ♪ ♪ Go marching in ♪ ♪ Oh when the Saints go marching in ♪ ♪ Oh how I want to be in that number ♪ ♪ When the Saints go marching in ♪ ♪ Oh when the Saints ♪ ♪ Go marching in ♪ ♪ Oh when the Saints go marching in ♪ ♪ Oh how I want to be in that number ♪ ♪ When the Saints go marching in ♪ ♪ And when the sun ♪ ♪ Begins to shine ♪ ♪ And when the sun begins to shine ♪ ♪ Oh I want to be in that number ♪ ♪ When the Saints go marching in ♪ ♪ And when the trumpet ♪ ♪ It starts to call ♪ ♪ And when the trumpet it starts to call ♪ ♪ Oh how I want to be in that number ♪ ♪ When the Saints go marching in ♪ (upbeat jazz music) ♪ And every mount ♪ ♪ Goes higher and higher ♪ ♪ And every mount goes higher and higher ♪ ♪ Oh how I want to be in that number ♪ ♪ When the Saints go marching in ♪ ♪ Oh when the Saints ♪ ♪ Go marching in ♪ ♪ Oh when the Saints go marching in ♪ ♪ Oh how I want to be in that number ♪ ♪ When the Saints go marching in ♪ (upbeat jazz music) - When Gavin first started KDO, he was this short little tiny guy, lacked a lot of confidence.
My name is Patrick Meyer and my son Gavin has been in KDO since he was eight years old.
And as time has gone on, he's strong, you know, he's confident, he's not fearful of things, and I think a lot of that had to come, came from his interaction with the people in KDO and them fostering him to being this strong individual.
It's utterly amazing to see the boy that he's become.
- I have never seen the kind of enthusiasm and engagement and just pure joy that these children were experiencing.
- One, two, woo.
- So it was just Michael and Monica for a very long time and they wore all the hats and did all of the things and they needed more help and that's where people like me came in.
My name is Megan Quiring and I am a teaching artist and the Operations Coordinator for Kids Dance Outreach.
- I go, I go, smash, swivel.
- My name is Ashley Donaldson and I am a lead teaching artist with Kids Dance Outreach.
- Five, six, seven and.
- A lead teaching artist is someone that creatively engages our students during our dance classes.
We are the main teacher.
We start the class, we lead the warmups, we teach and incorporate all of the movements that we're gonna be doing throughout the semester.
- You are always on as a teaching artist.
so that you can engage the children, but it's not about you.
You're not performing in the space.
It's about lifting these kids up and instilling confidence in them.
(students clapping) - The training sessions were very, very intense.
It was very quick.
My name is Kelvin Burzon.
I am a teaching artist for Kids Dance Outreach.
The training was intimidating, it was difficult mentally and physically, but once we got rolling and getting into the classroom, it was easier to understand how that training was important to the work and how it prepared all of us to really be on our toes, to really be engaged, and to know the material and the pedagogy.
- Five, six, seven, shuffle.
- It's humbling, you know, 'cause we're like, oh we know how to dance.
We could do these things, we can plie and point and whatever.
But to strip all of that down to the essence of movement because really that's what kids are doing.
They're not thinking plie, they're bending knees, you know?
So to strip some of that down to really what's the core of what we're doing?
Yeah, that took some practice.
Still takes practice.
We work on it all the time.
- We are really meeting each and every child where they are.
And so a victory for one may look very different than a victory for another.
Someone simply participating may be the big win.
- The energy of a KDO session is a lot like a rollercoaster.
My name is Austin and I am a lead teaching artist for KDO.
This side stand as well.
You come in and you have to already be ready from the moment that the kids walk into the door, you are intentional, you are direct, you are giving them whatever type of greeting, but direction that you need right from the beginning to set the tone.
And throughout the classroom you rise with your tempo, you rise with your voice and you kind of ebb and flow to kind of maintain this who knows where we're gonna go feeling.
And then you kind of ride it out to the end where everybody's leaving the classroom excited and moving and practicing the movements on their way out of the classroom.
- It's about engagement, it's about classroom management, it's about having tools in your pocket that you can pull out when the class might be struggling or a few students might be struggling.
- I'm fairly new at KDO but I have already seen such great progress in the students that I've seen thus far and I can't wait to be blown away seeing them years and years on as KDO grows.
- [Instructor] And up, get low.
And up, get low.
- I would say I look forward to KDO just as much as my kids do.
I dance right alongside them every single time.
I do the warmups, I do the movement sequences, I play the games, 'cause as a dancer, no matter how old you are, there's something about being able to express yourself in a fun, creative way that's just so exciting to have.
So I'm always right there with my kids in terms of enthusiasm and movement and as an adult who used to dance, it's just as much fun for me.
- I am a dancer.
Back in the early days of hip hop, I was a hiphop dancer.
I, you know, I would do the break dance moves and so when the KDO, Kids Dance Outreach, came around and he incorporated some of the break dance moves, it took me back to when I was a kid.
'Cause doing it with the kids, it encouraged them to get up and wanna move.
I would leave sweaty some days, but I enjoyed it.
(percussion music) - Kids Dance Outreach involves live music.
- Five, six, seven, eight.
- My name is Mike Kessler and I play percussion for KDO, Kids Dance Outreach.
- My name's Joe O'Connell and I'm a percussionist with Kids Dance Outreach.
- I'm Jeff Deherdt, a musical director for KDO.
That usually is just for a couple of months, most of the time I'm just the piano player for many of the classes.
- The role of the KDO musician in the classroom is crucial to the experience.
They work hand in hand with the teaching artists to support the children.
They instrumentalize the experience that we've immersed ourselves in.
- To have those musicians come in and play for our students and for them to be able to see that is awesome.
- Oh, it's one of the coolest things to have live musicians.
It brings such a fun energy to every movement that you do.
- You know, many people say, oh, why are you spending money on professional musicians?
Why don't you just use a CD or a recording.
(percussion music) - Turn around, turn around, turn around, turn around.
Get it rolls, get it rolls.
- It feels different when you're like jamming into a CD or a song on the radio to when you actually have a musician who's matching your pace, who can slow down, who can speed up, who can change the mood of the dance just by changing the song.
Again, I think it has such an energizing element to all of our KDO classes having those personal musicians with us.
- It's not easy.
I come from a background of improvisational music, so, but you have to be able to improvise soulfully on the count of five, six, seven, eight.
- Five, six, seven, eight.
And then it'll be a typical beat.
And this is kind of a medium for KDO.
Maybe a warm up and sometimes it'll be a little bit quicker, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
The pace of a KDO class tends to be very quick and so their changes tend to be really quick so I have to learn how to change with them.
But in between that, sometimes they'll want to change the feel a little bit and they'll ask, and maybe the drummer will, the piano will drop out, and the drums will take over.
Six, seven, eight.
(percussion music) - It does require a lot of concentration.
- Once they count, you have to be on it.
You have to start doing something.
- [Instructor] Five, six.
- My name is Alan Adifils Dit Etienne, originally from Haiti, I'm a drummer.
They can start with the tempo and then realize it's not the right thing for the kids or for them to teach.
And then they ask you to slow it down or to bring it up a little bit.
So at that time you have to pay attention to them, not to the person you're playing with.
- We end up playing a lot of different styles and from ABBA to Zappa, and that really speaks to our keyboardist talent and experience.
(upbeat music) There's times where it's just, okay, five, six, seven, eight, go.
And it's really something to just ah, throw something out there and see if it works.
- [Instructor] Five, six, seven, eight.
- A lot of dance studios that I've seen now do use canned music because it's cheaper and you know, you can, with streaming you can play any song you want.
I think the advantage of having live music is that especially if you improvise, you can, you can play just about anything on the fly.
You don't have to search, but they don't have to go back and hit a button or rewind.
I think you get the human response from the music and the dancers and the kids in the class and the teaching artists.
And I think that's important to show that there is a human element to making music and to performing.
- You just can't get that from music of a CD or an iPod.
It's alive and it's coming from a person into the space and it's driven by the moment.
- [Instructor] Party, party, party, party, K D O.
Give it up for these kids.
- I absolutely wish we had something like KDO when I was a kid in school.
I actually have ADHD and Tourette Syndrome and something that I learned from a very, very early age is that when I was engaging in the arts such as dance, I didn't tick and it's like my brain was able to slow down and I was able to be my truest self without being self-conscious or without worrying if I was different from other kids.
- I've seen other programs and you know, where the instructors are incredibly passionate about their students but they're very often passionate about the performance, not necessarily the seeds that they're planting in the students themselves and it's an enormous distinction.
♪ To the world I close my eyes to see ♪ ♪ I close my eyes to see ♪ ♪ I think of what the world could be ♪ ♪ A vision of the one I see ♪ ♪ A million dreams is all it's gonna take ♪ ♪ Oh a million dreams for the world we're gonna make ♪ (audience clapping) - I am waiting on my better half.
My name is Morgan Zoeller and I am Bear's mom.
We're waiting for him to come because he just finished dancing.
(audience clapping) - You wanna say hi?
- I don't need further introduction when I'm this dude's mom.
Well I'm Morgan and this is my son Bear and we have been part of KDO for, I think this might be our sixth season or six years.
And Bear is our oldest kiddo, 14 years old.
His real name is Barrett.
We learned of KDO when Bear was eight years old and some friends of ours had told us about it that were involved in the program and we were just so excited to learn of an organization that was making dance accessible to kiddos with Down Syndrome and special needs.
- Here we go.
- From the beginning, our goal with KDO, has been to include everyone with no exceptions.
The way we look at it, you know, a child is a child, you know, they can all benefit from what dance offers, movement, discipline, socializing with other children, and that feeling of accomplishment when they overcome a challenge.
You know, it's magical.
- And I just remember showing up to our first class and at the time, Bear, you were a little bit of a pip squeak, weren't you?
Yeah, you know, he says.
At the time he required a lot of one-on-one from a teacher to keep him on task and keep him focused and keep him involved and fast forward five years and he has developed so much confidence, joy, self-discipline, control, all of these things that we attribute much to his involvement in KDO.
And I know that there are other families who've experienced just as many benefits and positive things through KDO as we have.
- Higher knees.
Come on Lucas, get those knees up.
- This is our Lucas.
My name is Lucas Martin.
I'm 12 years old and I'm from Crestview Elementary.
- One, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, one.
- You stretch it out.
- [Brittany] Lucas is diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- And he loves to swim.
He loves slime and he loves to dance in a program called KDO.
- Five, six, five, six, seven, go.
- I think you know, when we watch Lucas and KDO, I see a boy that has come out of his shell.
I see confidence, I see character.
You could see the joy in his eyes and especially if any of the teachers tell him good job, or that he did something great.
- [Instructor] That's it.
Yes, that's right Lucas.
Smile Lucas, I see you.
- You know he just lights up.
He just has this, just brightness and this light to him and you can just see that when you watch him dancing in KDO, you see that.
- Be sure you get your knee super high.
Super high knees.
Can you show me?
- The awesome thing about our teachers is they demand excellence from our kids and they know what our kids are able to do and they don't let anything limit that for them.
They make the sky the limit.
- KDO's been great because I think it requires persistence.
- We go one, knees up, one up, one up, you up.
- I think it requires them overcoming challenges, some new obstacle, to learn the dance move, to learn the choreography.
- One, two, three, four, five, six, to your spots.
That's all I wanna see.
- You can't just get it like that, right?
You have to spend some time learning, practicing.
- It's very incremental steps of improvement.
But once they do accomplish something, that sense of accomplishment can never be taken away because they really had to work for it.
- I think that would do well for them going into adulthood because there are gonna be some challenges.
- We are so thankful for KDO for the vision of inclusion, diversity and believing in our kids.
Just giving them an outlet of to express themselves so just an incredible organization in our community.
(audience clapping) It's nerve-wracking to get up in front of a group of people always, but regardless of whatever that took for me to stand up in front of those people it's worth every bit of that because we know that this program is worth it.
These kids are worth it.
It's worth having something like this in our community.
- At KDO, yes it is all about the children but it's also all about the people who support the children in our programs and who make our work possible and that is all of you.
- Dana Vanderburgh is KDO's Associate Director of Community Engagement and Programming and she's talking about the people we invited to join us one evening for a little off-duty away from school get together.
- These are the educators that do so much on a daily basis to support the children at a KDO partner school.
- We cannot do the work that we do without the support of incredible educators within our community who believe that this type of arts education belongs in school and during school time and is a valuable part of a child's growth and is not just something that is fun or something that is extracurricular.
- There's no dancing tonight but there's a lot of good food and good conversation and just a wonderful exchange of meaningful ideas and perspectives all around.
- When the parents come in for the showcase, they haven't seen the kids dance.
Most of them don't, can't imagine their kids dancing, a lot of them, maybe not most, but when they watch their children and the excitement that they have and the confidence that they have and like the, just the lack of fear of doing that in front of others and their faces are just mesmerized and confused and excited and it's just, it's a really good feeling to watch the parents see their kids in a different light.
- And so the fact that we are working in schools, that happens because of educators who believe in what we do and who see what we do.
And also they're the ones that tell us, they're seeing the children five days a week.
We see them for an hour once a week for five to 10 weeks.
And they're the ones that really tell us what the impact of our work is.
- Al[ right, audience, make some noise.
- My favorite part of KDO is the first time they're practicing the run and leap.
It's my favorite class because they see it as a big pillar in the performance every time.
And you just see their little personality come out every time they like leap.
It's just them, all the focus is on them, and it's their moment to like bask in it.
And so when you were saying like watching the parents and the kids seeing the confidence, I thought about that leap and I was like, there are some kids I would not believe that walked up in front of that, our entire school sits in there, and run and jump and leap in front of that entire school and they're smiling or they're being a little silly showing their personality and it just carries on.
You can see it in years to come and you can remind them when they're having a low day and that's I think is the biggest impact of KDO.
- It's evident from talking to the children and talking to their parents that children feel significantly better about themselves as a result of this program.
Children that maybe didn't think that they had talent or ability can see that they are succeeding.
And what's terrific is that this is not just in this dance program, but this carries over into their schoolwork, into how they relate to other children, into how they relate to their teachers and their family.
It's a tremendous impact.
- We were thrilled to be able to get all the educators and advocates together to thank them for all they do.
I feel like we're constantly working together and here was our chance to just simply say thank you.
And the truth is that there's so many people to thank, people without whom KDO wouldn't be able to do what it does.
- You know, how about $5,000?
There anybody in this room that would be, ladies and gentlemen, right up front right here.
Bidder number 131, unbelievable $5,000.
- That includes people who believe in what it is we do and support us financially.
- How about $2,000?
Anybody here would like to donate two, right up here guys.
Bidder number 134 $2,000.
- That generous support from individuals, families, and organizations is what allows us to continue to serve the children that we need to be serving every year.
- Anybody wanna donate $500?
- And that generosity is never more in evidence that at an intermission out in the audience during the Kids Dance Outreach Event of the Year.
- We want you to know that we have been good stewards of your money and we stretch these dollars so very far.
I've seen firsthand, we truly want what's best for these children.
- So we've heard the expression many times that it takes a village and it does, it does, it does take a village.
It takes all of us collectively.
- And we work hard to fundraise so we can offer these programs for free for these children.
- Again, thank you all.
Give yourselves an amazing round of applause.
We'll get a total for you Michael.
It's an honor.
Thank you so very much.
- A while back, just out of the blue I got an email from Dick's Sporting Goods and they have a foundation and this person said, "could we have a phone call," and I said, "sure."
And they said, "okay, let's set up a call for tomorrow morning," and we did.
And then when I came onto the Zoom call, there was five people from the Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation and they said, "well we've found your program online and some of us have been reading everything that we can and learning about Kids Dance Outreach, and we would just like to hear from you why it is you do what you do and your impact and what you notice.
Could you just tell us a little bit about your program?"
So I did.
- And before we know it, they're gonna give us this huge gift of $50,000 and they're gonna present it to us, not just handing us a check.
They wanna create a whole experience to give our children the opportunity to receive the check and the gift and to be connected and be dancing with Twitch.
- Twitch is an incredible person, an outstanding dancer, probably most widely known for being the DJ on the Ellen DeGeneres show for many years.
He also was on "So you Think You Can Dance?"
Which is I think where he met his amazing wife Allison.
But just both of them are just incredible people, incredible dancers, very energetic, and I've loved watching them over the years.
It was great to finally meet them.
- Very nice.
- [Michael] And what a gift that was.
- Ready go.
- I like KDO 'cause it makes me feel happy when I'm sad.
'Cause my puppy just died and whenever I'm dancing I feel like she's with me.
- Teaching sixth grade, it's the bridge.
Sixth grade is the last step before middle school.
And I've had some kids who they've gone to middle school and they made bad decisions.
You know, just recently I had a kid who got in trouble for a robbery of a liquor store.
- And you see the headlines these days and what kids can get involved in and it just breaks your heart.
- I think our students have a lot of challenges at home.
For example, a lot of single home families, a lot of grandparents raising kids, low income.
- Probably don't have the food at home or enough food and the clothing.
- You know, people have lost their jobs.
Parents are are stressed about that, stressed about money.
And that all kind of weighs on students.
- There's a fair amount of families all around this area that have had to go through a lot of those hardships.
Whether it's gun violence, whether it's gang activity, whether it's domestic violence in the home, all of those things.
- And children are the product of their environment.
And if a school is struggling or a family is struggling, of course, what's gonna happen?
Of course, we can expect the student to be struggling and we wanna do everything we can by being prepared.
How can we address and support this student, each student in the best way that we can.
- I do feel like we try to play the long game in those situations and really be a presence in their life, a positive presence in their life.
- So between last year and this year, you know, my family, our family has split, you know, and that happens, you know, it's life.
And I'll tell you what, the common thread through last year into this year has been Gavin has the opportunity to go to dance and has the opportunity for an outlet and this is something and an outlet for him to have.
And he comes to it and he enjoys it.
And he gets away from the world.
You know, he gets away from everything that's going on.
And that's the beautiful thing.
- I remember I was teaching in a classroom, we had a guest, I had my class and there was all this talk about potentially a shutdown or a lockdown.
And that was the last time I was in a KDO classroom before the, you know, until the end of the pandemic.
- Eventually schools opened back up, but they were not bringing in outside programs such as Kids Dance Outreach.
We weren't going back into the schools yet.
- [Monica] Up, up, right and left, right, left.
Move side to side.
- But you know, what we did do is Monica would be teaching from Valentina's bedroom.
- [Monica] March it out, hop, hop, hop, hop it out.
- Broadcast into a giant screen that's inside the children's classroom.
- Hop it, woo.
March it out, up and up.
And down, I love it.
- And a little bit deeper into the pandemic, you know, we went to schools and we taught the children outdoors.
- Let's have KDO class outside.
What does that mean?
Do we need a 50 foot extension cord?
Let's get it.
So we were there on playgrounds, KDOing outdoors.
- The most dramatic thing was just seeing the kids dance with masks on.
I felt so bad for 'em.
- Sometimes I have to breathe, I take off my mask for a little bit and then I gotta put it back on.
- You jump, spin and stuff, you get out of breath.
- I remember the day at the end of April that the children came in and they weren't wearing a mask.
And I was like, oh my gosh, look at all these beautiful smiling faces.
I love it.
Oh, that was the most fun, joyful, beautiful rehearsal that we had had in two years.
- When the masks came off, it's like a whole new person is in front of me and they're smiling and they can see me smiling and so that reinforces everything.
- Yeah, COVID, it was hard.
I was worried about KDO surviving.
- So we didn't get to have our Event of the Year in 2020.
We didn't get to have it in 21, but in 22 we came back and we came back stronger than ever.
And the theater was packed.
The children filled the stage with energy and joy and they danced their hearts out and it was incredible.
It was a beautiful, beautiful night.
- What a gift that Michael and Monica and KDO bring to Indianapolis and bring to the Indianapolis culture.
You know, the children's culture, they are cultural pioneers and really are at the forefront of something that I hope catches on and goes for many, many years.
- When I decided to start Kids Dance Outreach, you know, you never know where these things will lead.
I remember the very first pilot program that we did and the very first school, and I'm still in touch with some of those children that were in that very first program like Jaqese Felker and his dad, who I just had breakfast with last Sunday.
We get together from time to time and it's so wonderful to see the young man that he's become.
We just are really proud of him.
And I'm proud of Shumar as well.
- Shumar Johnson, yes.
- And I went to see him this summer and he's about four inches taller than me.
So now I'm looking up at him.
And then there's Jasmine Bolden.
- And Jasmine was part of the same class as Jaqese and Shumar and she started coming to KDO and her two younger siblings, Georgia and Jeremiah.
- And Jasmine's mom, Danielle, what an inspiring mom she is.
- Danielle embodies the KDO mom.
You know, the parent who is involved, invested, goes above and beyond.
- Yeah, committed to making every effort to do what she can to give her children every opportunity possible.
- So at the end of August, I remember that the children had missed a couple days and I checked in with Danielle and you know, she tells me that they'd been sick with COVID and she had been sick with COVID.
- And Danielle, she had to be admitted to the hospital for treatment.
I went to the hospital and you know, she was definitely, you know, nervous and worried about her kids of course.
And I said, "look Danielle, don't you worry about a thing, we're gonna look after your kids, you just relax, get some rest, get yourself well and we'll come back and get you in a few days."
- Meanwhile, the children are at home.
They lived with mom and grandma.
Then the next hit was grandma has to go to the hospital too, who had been at home with COVID but doing okay, is all of a sudden not feeling great so they call an ambulance.
And I remember my first thought is there's no adult, the children are now on their own.
So my phone rings and it's Georgia.
Hi Miss Monica.
Hi love, how are you?
You guys okay?
You need something?
You know, obviously we had said anything that you need at any time, call us, don't worry about the time of day.
And then she, I think she asked me, "can you guys come get us?"
And I'm thinking, you know, we have to take these children in.
We have to, you know, they don't have an adult, they're in Brownsburg.
And while we're on the call, Jasmine is communicating to maybe an aunt or a friend who is on their way from Chicago to drive and stay with the kids.
But mind you, Sarah McGregor, another KDO parent, is already telling us, I have the house, I have a space.
I will take legal guardianship of them if I have to, like if I need to or if they need it right away.
Obviously you say Danielle and everybody knows Danielle.
Everybody is ready and willing to step up in any way, shape or form that they can.
So at this point we have like a whole system sort of formed around the children, the family.
- And families and parents are saying, "what can we do to help?"
"What do they need?"
And our Board is saying, "what do they need?"
Anything, anything for Danielle, anything for the kids.
- So then obviously the process moved to now both Danielle and grandma are in ICU beds, intubated, fully sedated.
- And the children went to see their mom in the hospital when she was sedated and I think that was really difficult.
It was really extremely difficult for the kids.
They called us and said, "hey, we still want to come to KDO tomorrow, can we come?"
I was like, yes, yes, you need to come, you should be here.
- So after that, you know, Danielle was in the ICU fully sedated and intubated for about two or three weeks and we were getting semi-regular updates.
Meanwhile, we're all still connected with the children.
Our families are checking in.
Now we have, you know, more services in place for them.
- And we were really looking forward to, you know, her getting well and driving her kids back to KDO and whenever you saw Danielle walk in, she'd be like, "hey everybody, how y'all doing in here?"
You know, she had this cute little voice that was just so sweet.
So on Tuesday of this week, we got the news that Danielle had passed away and Danielle was only 44, 44 years old.
I think our first thought was to call the children and just be there so that's what we did.
Danielle had a million dreams for her children.
And just because, you know, she's gone now, it doesn't mean that those children don't need to follow through with the dreams that their mother had for them and we're gonna do everything that we possibly can to make sure that they have those chances in their lives now and in their lives in the future.
So the night that Danielle passed away, when I was talking to the kids on the phone, they said, "we wanna come to KDO tomorrow."
And I said, "please come, let us know if you need a ride to get here."
- It was unbelievable that minutes after this children get off the phone with the news that their mom had died, you know, they're devastated.
Literally just minutes ago heard this news and what they're telling us on the phone is, we wanna come to KDO tomorrow because it's what we do.
Things get hard, they're difficult, we have to work towards them.
There's always beauty to be celebrated, there's always joy to share in.
And it was just wonderful to see that the children's immediate reaction was, we're gonna get up, we're gonna go and we're gonna dance.
- Tonight, you see our vision come to life.
On KDO's 10th anniversary, joining our extension team, we have asked one of those dancers from KDO's very first pilot program 10 years ago to come home and dance with us, bringing it right back to Indiana.
Please welcome to the stage, Jayonna Zinerman.
- Jayonna Zinerman.
It's me again.
Back to say thank you for joining the party and helping us celebrate 10 years of KDO.
It feels so good to be out here, a KDO kid again, what can I say?
The fire KDO lit inside me all those years ago still burns bright today.
And for that I am and I'll always be very, very grateful.
♪ I got the blues ♪ ♪ And that's why ♪ ♪ Just wanna do my thing ♪ - Every once in a while somebody will ask me, "well, what would you be doing if you weren't involved in KDO?"
And I feel like KDO is such a big part of my life that I can't imagine myself doing anything else.
♪ Back to where I started from ♪ ♪ I'm going back to Indiana ♪ ♪ 'Cause that's where my baby's from ♪ (upbeat music) ♪ I'm going back to Indiana ♪ ♪ Back to where I started from ♪ ♪ I'm going back to Indiana ♪ ♪ 'Cause that's where my baby is from ♪ - At the end of the day, it's not about me.
It's not about Kids Dance Outreach, it's always about the children.
And if we can spark a little bit of joy, reduce a little bit of anxiety, show children that hard work pays off, you know, if it's the simplest of one of those three tasks, we've done our job.
♪ 'Cause that's where my baby's from ♪ - [Announcer] This program is supported by the Indy Arts and Culture Restart and Resilience Fund, an Arts Council of Indianapolis program made possible by Lilly Endowment Incorporated.