Group is choreographing a better life

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A National City-based nonprofit aims at improving the lives of teenagers and strengthen underserved communities through dance and performance.

TranscenDANCE, a creative youth development organization works with teens in underserved San Diego communities to transcend barriers, expand their ambitions and create positive change for themselves, their families, and communities, through dance and performance.

The organization has been in existence for about 13 years, but recently has experienced an evolution.

“It’s not new, but we are experiencing big-time growth right now,” said Katie Lorge, program and marketing manager for transcenDANCE.

Lorge said that growth includes transcenDANCE expanding their programs to be offered in a year-round basis, and the fact that the organization is serving more students and community members than ever before.

TranscenDANCE started in a garage in City Heights in response to needs that were being expressed by youth in that community. Lorge said students wanted to have a creative space to explore their voice, to practice their leadership and to have ownership about the way they spend their time away from school and family commitments.

Lorge said transcenDANCE provides a safe space and a safety net, a community of love and support, a place where dancers can be authentic and a pathway to careers and college.

TranscenDANCE will soon be holding auditions for their upcoming creative performance group, a six-month program that focuses on choreography, dance technique classes, rehearsals and ends in a professional produced performance.
Currently, transcenDANCE is half-way through an alumni performance residency at the Arts District in Liberty Station.

Next week, transcenDANCE is launching its first community residency at Our Safe Place, LGBTQ teen center in Chula Vista Through this residency, Lorge said the organization hopes to have students are learn about dance and performance. Students will participate in this residency, which will run through the spring and ultimately create a professionally produced performance.

“We bring students of all backgrounds and experiences together,” Lorge said. “To learn about dance performance and storytelling and we always want them to end with a big event where they can showcase what they’ve learned.”

Lorge said because transcenDANCE is a creative youth development organization, their goal is not to produce professional dancers, but to create social change.

As part of the program, transcenDANCE offers mental health services, mentorships and leadership counseling workshops. They are free of charge.

Lorge said each student has different requirements in terms of the number of counseling sessions they must attend. Students are required to participate in the social change workshops, Lorge said these workshops is where transcenDANCE does its community building.

“It’s really important to us that when students finish our program, they have the tools that they need to have happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives,” Lorge said. “That’s our main goal. We happen to do that through dance but we’re not looking to turnout professional dancers. We’re looking to turnout people who have the skills that they need to live good lives in our community.”

Group is choreographing a better life