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National Dance Day, a chance to give back to the community

Special to The Leader

National Dance Day in Orange started two years ago as a celebration of dance with a fun free event at Riverfront Pavilion. It was a chance for the community to join together and just have a good time.

This year, the event has started to evolve into something more.

It is still a chance to get your groove on in a family friendly event, but now there are several components that are benefitting not one or two, but three nonprofit organizations, plus some of Orange County’s younger citizens that are on the lower end of the income bracket.

It started just like the first two years, with What’s Happening Orange County? joining with the Orange Convention and Visitors Bureau to bring the two hour event to the Orange Riverfront Pavilion on the last Saturday of July, the official day designated by Congress in 2010.

The catalyst for change happened when Tracie Gibbs of Neighbors Emergency Center contacted event organizer Penny LeLeux to see if any sponsorships were available. With the funds they provided, LeLeux was able secure the winner of So You Think You Can Dance season 7, Lauren Froderman, for the event.

That in itself was a great addition to the event that would add excitement for all involved, but that only got the wheels turning.

It was decided to hold a meet and greet at Orange Community Players, Inc. theater after the main event.

After researching similar meet and greets, it was discovered $40 was an average price for tickets to those events. They cut that in half and settled on $20 for patrons to get to meet Froderman, get an autograph and take a picture with her. Last week, Elise Haynes has also joined the meet and greet. Haynes is a working actress living in Beaumont that plays Officer Jackson on NCIS New Orleans and has a part in the movie “Bad Moms” that comes out this week. Half of the proceeds from the meet and greet will benefit OCP for their needs.

Froderman also offered the possibility of teaching a contemporary dance class to area dancers that afternoon, after the main event. To cover her costs, the class was set at $30.

“What if we could offer a beginner class to girls and boys that may have never had to the opportunity to take dance due to economic reasons?” thought LeLeux.

Froderman said she had experience teaching beginners and agreed to cut her normal rate in half for that one hour. LeLeux was on a mission. She started putting feelers out for someone to sponsor these kids. The Service League of Orange stepped up to the plate.

Six area studios and OCP all offered their facilities to host the class.

“With the possibility of a class for area dancers with a celebrity professional and a dream come true for those that wished to dance, but didn’t have means, I felt a regular studio might not be big enough to fit the need,” said LeLeux.

She approached the West Orange-Stark Middle School principal for the use of the gym.

LeLeux is part of the BNI Foundation’s Business Voices, an organization that links schools with local businesses to fill unmet needs. Through that organization, LeLeux had recently developed a working relationship with the middle school principal, Anthony Moten. It was one of WOCCISD’s requests of Business Voices that gave LeLeux the idea to host the free class. The superintendent had said they needed “something for our girls.” They specifically asked Business Voices to come up with some type of program for their female students in third and eighth grades.

“This is perfect,” thought LeLeux. If they offered the class to girls and boys ages 8 to 14, it would fulfill a direct request from the school. Not wanting to limit it to one school, but to the area, LeLeux felt with the use of the gym, rather than a studio would allow them to service more students. “We should be able to offer this class to around 100 kids,” said LeLeux.

Going back to the main event, LeLeux knew that Special Angels Rodeo recently held a link sale fundraiser at Farmers Mercantile, directly across the street from the Riverfront Pavilion and thought the event might be the perfect opportunity for Special Angels to host another link sale, which would not only raise funds for a great adaptive event rodeo for special needs, but would also provide food for the event for those hungry. They will be providing various concessions that day including links, burgers and boudain.

Recently, Business Voices decided to kickoff a global Fill My Ride campaign to collect school supplies for area schools. The campaign in most areas will be the week of August 22. Since the Back to School Orange County event is August 13, LeLeux secured permission from the International office to do the local event on National Dance Day. Dunnie Hunter will be loaning the use of his Corvette for the “Fill My Ride” campaign. They will be attempting to fill the car in a day with supplies that will be donated to the Back to School Orange County initiative.

National Dance Day has come a long way in two years. Look for even greater growth next year.

Here is the schedule for Saturday, July 30 in Orange:

9 a.m.-12 p.m.  Main National Dance Day event– Orange Riverfront Pavilion, 601 Division Ave.-Free

12-1 p.m.  Meet and Greet with Lauren Froderman and Elise Haynes-Orange Community Players Theater, 708 Division Ave. $20 Tickets online at Eventbrite.

2-3 p.m.  Contemporary Dance Class with Lauren Froderman- at West Orange-Stark Middle School Gym, 1402 Green Ave. $30 Tickets online at Eventbrite.

3:15-4:15 p.m.-Beginner Dance Class with Lauren Froderman- 3:15 p.m. contact pgleleux@gmail to nominate kids 8-14 for this free class.