About Our Youth Programs » Youth Dance Ensemble
In 1983, Lula Washington established her Children’s Jazz Dance Ensemble. The group included five children, all of them in elementary or middle school. Laura Duff, Gingi Duff, Tanny Garcia, Tamica Washington and Richard Brooks were the first members. Since then, hundreds of young people have participated in the youth dance group. It’s name has evolved to the current Youth Dance Ensemble (YDE). Past members of YDE include Roshada Baldwin, Tahia Rollins, Asya Washington, and Myshell Curry, all of whom teach at the LWDT studio and help to run the school and organization.
It is never too early to get started in dance performance. At LWDT, our three year olds dance in our annual Kwanzaa ceremony. By the time they are age seven, they are seasoned performers with tons of dance experience under their belts. The purpose of YDE is to give a creative outlet for children and teens in the LWDT studio. Lula Washington’s Youth Dance Ensemble is simply fantastic.
The Youth Dance Ensemble has performed all over the Los Angeles area. Our youth have danced for Congresswoman Maxine Waters; Mayor Villaraigosa; Karen Bass, former Speaker of the Assembly; Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver; and for scores of dignitaries and celebrities at special events.
Members of YDE meet celebrities from the dance world, politics, business and the community. Students in the Youth Dance Ensemble learn skills in performance, choreography, and speaking in public.
YDE performs all kinds of dance, Modern, Carribbean, African, ballet, jazz, tap, and hip hop. Their performances take them to all kinds of venues, from mansions in Holmby Hills, to the steps of City Hall.
YDE members have worked with pioneers in dance, including Arthur Mitchell, founder of Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Donald McKayle, one of the leading modern dance choreographers in American history. The photo to the right shows members of the Youth Dance Ensemble with Mr. Mitchel, Mr. McKayle, Lula Washington, and dancers Christa Oliver and Michael Battle from the Lula Washington Dance Theatre company.
Youth Dance Ensemble members learn choreography from Lula Washington and from teachers at the LWDT school, as well as from guest choreographers.
Students in the Youth Dance Ensemble take classes as part of the LWDT School Program. They are required to take classes in every discipline. The YDE members alsol stay for extra rehearsals so they can prepare for community performances. Rehearsals are typically Friday and Saturdy evenings, but, they often include rehearsals on other days. Parents are asked to help transport children to performances, and they are always invited to attend and help chaperone.
Lula Washington Dance Theatre’s Youth Dance Ensemble includes young people ages 7 to 17. Our little childre, starting at age three, also get to perform in our Studio’s Kwanzaa shows, as well as in the annual Youth Recital and other events.
Older students work with our Studio Ensemble, a group of students ages 16 and up. These students take intense classes designed to prepare them for dancing in community events.
Many students move from the Youth Dance Ensemble to become apprentices with the Lula Washington Dance Theatre touring ensemble. Their training in the youth group prepares them for the intense demands of the professional company.
Older students in the photo to the left, worked with LWDT and Nike for a special Black History Month project that celebrated the achievements of the NAACP. The performance was held in Hollywood at the Ricardo Montelbond Theatre.
Students join the YDE or Studio Ensemble by auditon or by invitation from staff.
Over the years, students from the LWDT Youth Dance Ensemble have gone on to dance with Lula Washington’s professional dance company.
From there, many alumni moved on to join major dance companies in other cities, including Philadanco; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre; Dayton Contemporary Dance Company; Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company; Garth Fagan Dance Company; Dallas Black Dance Company.