There is a real buzz at the Rezpect Dance Academy, as dozens of youngsters warm up and then break out their dance moves.
In the seven years that Rezpect has been running, the programme has attracted many hundreds of learner hip-hoppers from as young as five. The academy was started in response to a need for a safe, alcohol and drug-free programme that encouraged young people, aged 5 to 25, to take on an activity at which they could excel. On the way they learn life skills that help them grow into contributing community members.
Hastings District Council is again supporting Rezpect, granting it $15,000 from this financial year’s Contestable Grants Fund. The fund is distributed annually to groups developing or delivering a community service or project which fits with Council’s aim of “building a safe, liveable, sustainable community”. Council is profiling successful applicants from the most recent grants round.
The academy comes under the management of Zeal, a charitable trust which works with young people to help them make good choices and build resilience. The organisation’s submission to the fund said “a young person’s greatest need is belonging, followed by the need for mastery/attainment of a specialist skill”.
And the academy is a place they can achieve – and do, says Rezpect manager Olivia Morrell. “It is great to see them at that moment when they realise they can do it. All of a sudden they are ready for more which leads on to taking them to competitions and, when they’re older, training to become assistant tutors.
“Being part of a dance crew leads to increased self-esteem and builds character. Being part of group where you all have to work together means you can’t help but learn discipline, respect for others, humility, selflessness, honesty and forgiveness; and how to handle conflict.”
Once the dancers realise they can do hip hop, their desire to take part in competitions suddenly starts to grow, says Mrs Morrell. “You can see them thinking: ‘this is cool; I’m good at this – where can I go with this?’ And taking them away to a competition is a real treat for most of them. Some of them have never been to a city before and going to Wellington or Auckland blows them away.”
Last year six Rezpect teams qualified to compete in the Street Dance NZ national championships – not bad for a non-professional academy going up against professional dance studios from the big cities.
One of the biggest thrills for Mrs Morrell was being in the United States for training and attending a competition which included two Rezpect graduates. “It was great to see them up on stage. These are dancers who started with us then moved out of the area when they got older and joined professional dance studios in their new home cities.
“They made the top 20 in their sections in that completion. These are kids who did not enjoy or do particularly well in school and might have gone down completely different negative paths, but for dance.”
Classes are run out of the Rezpect studio in Maraekakaho Rd, and at Flaxmere Community Centre, Irongate School and Maraenui Bilingual School. There are 22 classes a week, with 238 five to 18 year olds enrolled.
For more information on Rezpect and contact details see its Facebook page: Rezpect Dance Academy
For more information on Hastings District Council Annual Contestable Grants see: www.hastingsdc.govt.nz/contestable-grants-fund
4 December 2017
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