Gulliver students start dance program for underpriviledged kids

Now at Gulliver Prep, Meaghan Sylver (Cutler Bay) and Meagan Adler (Pinecrest) still dance together.

Meaghan Sylver and Meagan Adler met as children when they attended their first dance class and became fast friends. Today they are juniors at Gulliver Prep and continue to be dance buddies and best of friends, dancing at Artistic Soul Studios in Palmetto Bay and competing with the studio company.

“We’ve both started dancing when we were four years old and we’ve been dancing ever since,” Adler says.”We dance 10- 15 hours a week.”

When they entered the ninth grade, they decided they wanted to share their love of dance – particularly tap dancing — with underprivileged children.

“Meagan (Adler) and I started talking about how we wanted to teach a group, not necessarily at our studio,” Sylver says, adding that they wanted to teach at a location the kids didn’t have access to dance classes. “We’ve always wanted to share our passion for dance.”

So they started Tap Kidz and began teaching a free weekly tap class at the Boys and Girls Club in Kendall. In 2011, they expanded and began teaching at the Homestead YMCA as well. By the end of this school year, they had earned approximately 115 community service hours each through the program.

“We do it one day a week,” Adler says.

“We go to the Boys and Girls Club first and then we travel to the YMCA.”

The girls say that they had been dancing a long time and they really wanted to give other children the opportunity to express themselves and see how much fun dancing can be. They are also aware that with rising childhood obesity rates, they are helping kids stay healthy by helping them exercise in a fun way.

“We start by teaching the most basic steps,”Sylver says.

While teaching the children to dance fulfills their community service requirements, Adler says the classes they teach mean much more than going to club meetings at school.

“Seeing the excitement on their faces, it’s so fulfilling,” Adler says.

The children they teach range from five to 11 at the YMCAand six to 13 at the Boys and Girls Club. The classes also draw some boys.

In order to dance, the children need tap shoes, so the girls collected tap shoes from friends and various dance studios for the children to use.

“The kids really like to dance with them,” Adler says.

The girls are also planning to do some fundraising for the Dizzy Feet Foundation, which gives out dance scholarships to underprivileged kids. The foundation was started by So You Think You Can Dance producer Nygel Lithgoe and others, including actress Katie Holmes.

“We plan to continue this program throughout high school,” Sylver says.

They have a few students who have been in the program from the start who are interested in continuing to dance. For those children who remained in the program before, they added more difficult moves and used them to help demonstrate the dance steps.

At the beginning of the school year, the girls expanded the scope of Tap Kidz and began tutoring kids in the homework program. Next year they hope to incorporate information about nutrition into the program.

“We teach about health and a healthy lifestyle,” Adler says, “and how tap is a lifestyle that is healthy and is good for expressing yourself.”

At the end of each school year, the children take part in a mini-recital so the parents can see what their children learned.

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