Getting into the rhythm of teaching


Local-Motions lets teens take the lead :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Frank Pinc/Chicago Parent At Local-Motions, teenagers take the lead, teaching younger children to dance while providing them with encouragement.

The Local-Motions dance studio looks like most others-wall-to-wall mirrors, hardwood floors and show curtains. It's the attitude that's different at this West Side studio. There are claps and encouragement after every performance, no matter how weak or how strong. And the teenagers set the pace.

D'Lana O'Neal started the business three years ago because she was troubled by the teens she met on the city's West Side in the nearby low-income Austin community.

"My heart bled for them. I saw that they masked themselves to protect themselves," she says. "They were all bottled up and I wanted to stimulate them somehow."

Thus came Local-Motions, a performing arts organization that teaches teenagers how to teach younger children. The studio at 6246 W. North Ave., Chicago, is sandwiched between Oak Park, Chicago's Galewood neighborhood and the West Side.

Because of her love for dance and belief that music videos capture young people, O'Neal decided to open her studio. "I thought this would be a good way for them to express themselves," she says. She received her own dance training at Hubbard Street and Joel Hall dance studios.

Since many of her students are from the rough-and-tumble Austin area, O'Neal sees the dance studio as a safe haven. She believes in the philosophy of teaching people to fish rather than simply feeding them-a philosophy she applies to dance by teaching the older children how to teach the younger children. The teens become teachers for life, she says.

Student teacher Joyce Jones, 16, has learned all phases of putting on a show, including teaching dance routines, making costumes, creating props and promotion. She keeps coming to Local-Motions because of the freedom. "You don't have to be in a shell here, worrying about who's watching you," says Jones, who took classes for a year before she began teaching this summer.

The younger children seem to listen intently to the teens, who shout instructions such as "Keep your audience entertained!" and "Be respectful!"

Limari Huertas, 13, who's also a newly minted teacher, says about the little kids: "When you listen to them, they listen to you."

The performance arts studio currently has about 50 artists- and dancers-in-training, ranging in age from 2 to 18. The children also learn graphic design, silk screening and theater.

Local-Motions offers free workshops and performs four shows throughout the year. Its next show is at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 14 at Shriners Hospitals for Children, 2211 N. Oak Park Ave., Chicago. This show is free and open to the public.

For more information, call (773) 622-3267. Debbie Lively

Kids Eat Chicago

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