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Keeping Dance Alive, St. Croix Arts Community Outreach

 In 2017, I was at home in Washington DC bedridden and removed from everything that I knew. 

My life as a Dancer as I knew it....was no longer. I could barely walk, performing menial tasks around the house was a burden for me. I often felt faint and dizzy. My nervous system had taken a hard hit from the brutal cold winter of Chicago. The winds  shook my bones and my days of job hunting, street performing in the Chicago O'Hare Airport for bills and just aimlessly walking in the snow drove my body into a state of shock.

PH. D Chenzira Davis Kahina &
Ms. Charlita Charlita Schuster,
 great friends discussing a paining in the UVI Cultural Center

After my last gig as a Broadway Dancer, there was nothing more for me in the Windy City. I'd returned home with question in my mind and heart as to how I would move forward. I was diagnoses with a rare chronic pain condition, Trigeminal Neuralgia.

The International Association for Blacks in Dance had just revamped its organization, was granted $250, 000 honorarium from the Andrew Mellon Foundation and was offering internship positions to work in office. I desperately needed to remain connected to my arts community, as my last source of hope--but a daily commute into the city from my family home in my condition at the time was a feat for me. 
When I looked online and saw the bulletin post, a call for donations to send dance wear down to the U.S. Virgin Islands. I thought to myself, "....this something.....that I can do."

And it was best decision, I could have made. 

w/ Charlita Schuster after breakfast, discussing the future of dance in the US Virgin Islands

The urgent call from the Artistic Director, Charlita Schuster in US Virgin Islands brought to light just how giving and charitable the Prince Georges County Dance Community can be: quick to come to the aid of others, eager to support an important cause and to hasten to the needs of our fellow artists. Within just a few days the dance companies, schools and studios in the area gathered to donate New and New Condition Dance Attire and Supplies to be shipped out to the Music in Motion School of Higher Dance Education is St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. After Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean hard in 2017, much of the school’s merchandise, supplies and equipment was destroyed, however it’s the Prince George’s County Dance Community who was among the first to step in and make a contribution to help rebuild and restore that which was lost.

What began as a kind gesture turned into an Arts Community Effort --a Movement it grew and became a merit based Scholarship ~ Dance Our Legacy and eventually the grassroots formation of an Information & Resource site: 

Visit the Website Creative and Equal Opportunities Inc.

after the St. Croix Dance Community Workshop for Keeping Dance Alive

This video that you see below is a brief recap of a beautiful full circle moment. 

A continuation of Keeping Dance Alive initiative where I was able to actually meet Ms. Schuster and her students in St. Croix. I taught a workshop for 2.5 hours and had the opportunity to dial back and actually recognize Charlita for her tireless and bold efforts to revive the dance community by awarding her the:

Keeping Dance Alive, International Activism Award of Excellence 40 + Years

Charlita Schuster, Age 65 in an Attitude Arabesque overlooking the pier in St. Croix, 2021

Artist in Residence Reflection, Kayla Harley


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