Cirque performer, Kwak Ballet partner for summer program exploring various dance styles

Yes, it involves dance, but it’s more about self-esteem. And, yes, it teaches new moves, but it’s also about setting goals for yourself.

Project RAGE (Reaching Above Greater Expectations) is an intensive, five-week summer dance program that teaches youths various dance styles — ballet, contemporary, hip-hop and jazz — with some musical theater thrown in.

Run by The Rolle Project nonprofit, it is scheduled for July 5 through Aug. 6 at the Kwak Ballet Academy, 1350 S. Jones Blvd., and spots are filling up quickly.

“It’s for underprivileged and at-risk kids,” said Tyrell Rolle, the program’s founder. “These are kids who can’t afford to go to a real, professional dance class. I’m making it accessible for them. I’m making it feasible for them.”

He partnered 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 signed up. Yoomie Lee, Kwak executive director, said it gives them a break from the strict discipline of ballet.

“We’re two nonprofit organizations collaborating together for a great summer intensive,” she said. “Sometimes you want more variety. With ballet, you have to control your body — control, control control. And sometimes I want them to feel more free. When trying to learn hip-hop and jazz and contemporary, they feel more freedom, and then the movement is bigger, and so we teach technique where there is more free style of movement.”

 

Lee said she knew Rolle, who is in Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles-themed “LOVE” and has performed in “The Lion King,” as a jazz dancer and teacher.

“So we’re on the same page, just (different forms) of dance,” she said. “ … When I teach, I only teach ballet. The students need (exposure to) another type of dance.”

Rolle knows a thing or two about taking advantage of summer programs. As a youth from the tough streets of Florida, he had his own challenges. His mother was a single parent, and his father was in prison. He said he found release in art, acting, singing and dance.

“Those things kept me out of trouble, so my mother loved it,” he said. “… I dibble dabbled 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 was featured on season seven of “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Rolle said he had his own moment of low self-esteem recently. He had to have hip surgery in July and came out of it sore, discouraged and disgruntled.

“It shut me down and almost discouraged me from dancing, from teaching,” he said. “I couldn’t walk; I couldn’t teach. I couldn’t even feed my dog. But with the help of (family), they pushed me through.”

His sister, Chancey Wilson, offered him insight: It was the perfect time, she said, for him to open that dance studio that he’d always talked about.

Emboldened, he underwent physical therapy, was bolstered by get well cards from those he’d taught and came out stronger. He set up Project RAGE in January and began raising funds and looking for a studio site.

“It was time to give back,” he said. “I’d been performing for 14 years. Let’s sit back and help the next generation of kids. I told myself, ‘Let’s help the next generation of local performers who may not get a Cirque job or dance professional with a company. They’ll have your organization to go to.’”

He said as much as kids will get out of RAGE, he also gets his own benefits.

“I love working with kids because it keeps me young,” Rolle said. “They teach me all the new dance moves. … This is my passion. This is what I was built for, to help kids through dance, through mentoring.”

Email rolleproject@gmail.com or call 702-240-3262 or 702-444-0773. For more information about The Rolle Project, visit rolleproject.org.

To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email jhogan@viewnews.com or call 702-387-2949.

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