By Valerie Baldowski
Six girls enrolled in a Stockbridge dance studio have been picked to attend the Debbie Allen Dance Academy's summer camp in Los Angeles, Calif. Now, their instructor is scrambling to raise the funds to get them there.
The six members of the dance troupe at the Eagle's Landing Dance Center have raised $500 each, of the $3,100 per dancer, needed to participate in the camp.
"It's the opportunity of a lifetime for these kids," said their instructor, Vanessa Gibson. "First of all, to be able to meet Debbie Allen is an awesome thing in itself. Then, on top of that, to be able to go to Los Angeles and be in the midst of her dance studio for an entire month, and to learn from instructors from all over the world," Gibson said.
The dance camp will be held July 5 through Aug. 1, said Gibson. She is seeking sponsors to help the young dancers realize their dreams.
The school will hold a dance recital on June 6, at the Henry County Performing Arts Center, with all of its students expected to perform at 2 p.m., and again at 5 p.m., she said. Gibson will use the occasion to make a formal appeal to the audiences for donations and sponsorships to help make the trip more affordable.
The group of students selected for the camp includes Vanessa Gibson's daughter, Kyla Gibson, 11, Niara Swann, 11, Morgan Staten, 10, Ashante Booker, 10, Ashley Slabaugh, 17, and Michaela Johnson, 13.
On Thursday, students gathered for their dance lesson, stretching and gliding through their routines. Some spoke of the anticipation they felt about their selection.
"I was astonished, because I get to see Debbie Allen again, and get to spend a whole month with her," Kyla Gibson said. "I was happy, going to Los Angeles, and then getting to see my idol dancer, Debbie Allen."
The girls were chosen to attend the camp after they successfully auditioned for parts in a children's television show Allen was filming in the metro-Atlanta area in January, according to Vanessa Gibson. They learned a week later that six of them were selected for the camp.
Swann, who has been taking dance lessons for three years, said the trip will be a rare chance to dance with others in an intensive setting.
"It's a wonderful opportunity," Swann said. "The camp will be hard and tiring, but I think it will be fun."
One of the highlights will be meeting dance students from other areas, Swann continued.
"I think it sounds pretty awesome to have an opportunity for me to be chosen as an invitation to be with Debbie Allen," Staten added.
Vanessa Gibson said that to help raise funds on their own, the children sold doughnuts, entertainment books, and T-shirts. They also took the initiative to write their own letters, asking for sponsors.
"These little girls created their own sponsorship letters," Vanessa Gibson said. "They have asked everyone they know. They're really excited. They really want to go."
Their efforts netted $500 each, which is enough to hold a spot open for them for camp registration, Vanessa Gibson continued.
"We need as many [sponsors] as we can get," she added.
Vanessa Gibson said the cost to send each student will involve paying for camp fees, transportation and meals.
"It's crunch time with the economy," Vanessa Gibson said. "A lot of my parents are single parents, so for them to be able to afford this opportunity is a lot within itself."
Eagle's Landing Dance Center, at 16 Bellamy Court in Stockbridge, can be reached at (678) 289-0060.