Yes, it’s about dancing, but it’s more about self-esteem. And, yes, it teaches new moves, but it’s also about setting goals.
Project RAGE (Reaching Above Greater Expectations) is an intensive five-week summer dance program that teaches young people a variety of dance styles – ballet, contemporary, hip-hop and jazz – with a bit of musical theater.
Managed by The Rolle Project, a non-profit, it’s scheduled to run July 5 through August 6 at Kwak Ballet Academy, 1350 S. Jones Blvd., and places are filling up fast.
âIt’s for disadvantaged and at-risk children,â said Tyrell Rolle, founder of the program. âThese are kids who can’t afford to go to a real professional dance class. I make it accessible to them. I make it doable for them.
He partnered up with Kwak Ballet and teaches his own programming there two days a week, so RAGE was a natural next step.
Some of the Kwak students have already registered. Yoomie Lee, executive director of Kwak, said it gave them a break from the strict discipline of ballet.
âWe are two non-profit organizations working together for a great intensive summer,â she said. âSometimes you want more variety. With ballet, you have to control your body – control, control. And sometimes I want them to feel more free. When they try to learn hip-hop, jazz, and contemporary, they feel more freedom and then the movement is bigger, so we teach the technique where there is more free movement style.
Lee said she knew Rolle, who is in Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles-themed “LOVE” and performed in “The Lion King,” as a dancer and jazz teacher.
âSo we’re on the same page, just (different forms) of dancing,â she said. ââ¦ When I teach, I only teach ballet. Students need (to be exposed to) a different kind of dance.
Rolle knows very well how to take advantage of summer programs. As a kid on the tough streets of Florida, he had his own challenges. Her mother was a single parent and her father was in prison. He said he freed himself in art, theater, song and dance.
âThese things got me out of trouble, so my mom loved it,â he said. ââ¦ I immersed myself in the arts at the Cultural Arts Center, a community center for kids whose families can’t afford big programs.
He went on to get scholarships with dance companies and was so good that he appeared in season seven of “So You Think You Can Dance”.
Rolle said he had had his own moment of low self-esteem recently. He had to have hip surgery in July and came away painful, discouraged and unhappy.
âIt stopped me and almost discouraged me from dancing, from teaching,â he said. âI couldn’t walk; I couldn’t teach. I couldn’t even feed my dog. But with the help of (the family), they pushed me to the limit.
His sister, Chancey Wilson, gave him a glimpse: Now was the perfect time, she said, for him to open that dance studio he had always talked about.
Emboldened, he took physical therapy, was supported by the recovery cards of those he had taught, and came out stronger. He created the RAGE project in January and started fundraising and looking for a studio site.
âIt was time to give back,â he said. âI played for 14 years. Letâs sit down and help the next generation of children. I thought to myself, âLet’s help the next generation of local artists who may not be able to find work at the circus or professional dance with a company. They should go to your organization.
He said that as much as the kids come out of RAGE, it also gets its own benefits.
âI love working with children because it keeps me young,â Rolle said. âThey teach me all the new dance steps. â¦ This is my passion. This is what I was built for, helping children through dance, through mentoring.
Email [email protected] or call 702-240-3262 or 702-444-0773. For more information on the Rolle project, visit rolleproject.org.
To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email [email protected] or call 702-387-2949.