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The Gift of Giving Back-What an Akron-Based Organization has been doing to Expose their Community to the Arts

UPublish story by Erin Brown

Anniversary milestones are occurring throughout the world; whether it’s the year of giving something paper, wood, tin, or silver, the folks at Pointe West Performances (PWP) have another agenda- to give the gift of giving back. PWP is an organization that not only provides dance classes, scholarships for conservatory studies, and free annual performances; they use these efforts to fundamentally expose kids to humanities and culture. The company accomplishes this through its eclectic and experienced group of professionals from a variety of backgrounds who, at times, compromise their paychecks to see these kids thrive.

The professionals choreograph, teach classes, serve on the board, and/or dance in PWP’s professional dance company, Pointillism Jazz Consort. Although some members are working from different places all over the world, they find many creative ways to collaboratively see to the company vision. And every year, at least once, they meet in Akron to produce performances with the children in the organization. The performances are free and open to the community at the Akron-Summit County Public Library. PWP refers to this as their annual “gift to the community”.

“When I was holding the Akron After School (AAS) info meeting to teach our instructors the movement & humanities component for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ (this year’s annual performance), it began to occur to me just how long a number of people have been involved in our programming,” says Suzanne Winland, Artistic Director of PWP. It amazes me how much I’ve realized our mission though an energetic group of like-minded, synergistic professionals that have stuck with us even when funding was non-existent.”

Veronica Shreffler-Moss is an example of Suzanne’s comment, as she is a full-time teacher in the Revere School system, mother of five, and 10th year staff member for PWP. Veronica joined Pointillism in 1997 and appeared as Beth in their 2nd production of “Little Women.”

“When people I first meet ask me ‘what do you do’, I often respond ‘well I’m a teacher. I teach several foreign languages, zumba, dance and my children’. But in actuality that response doesn’t quite explain it. What I should say is ‘I’m a humanitarian’ and Pointe West is a resource for me to charge my humanitarianism,” says Veronica.

Another PWP professional, Caroline Amer, joined the organization in 2001, appearing in “Masterpieces in Motion”; in 2005 she joined as a Pointillism member, appearing as Puck in the PWP 10th Anniversary Production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Caroline has returned from her residence in London to appear as Titania in AAS 10th Anniversary Production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“After 7 years working in the UK and South Africa, I felt drawn back to the Akron community and my mentor, Suzanne Winland. Studying dance with Suzanne at Point West exposed me to so many types of dance styles and gave me so much when I was training that I wanted to give back by exposing the kids to my experiences with international culture and theatre,” explains Caroline.“The other day I visited Mason School and had the opportunity to talk with the AAS kids. It was amazing to see how interested they were to learn about different types of performances and cultures, as well as just how eager they were to be inspired.”

Other experienced professionals find their home at PWP including Ivry Newsome, a cutting edge choreographer and aerial dancer with Blue Lapis Dance Co. in Austin, Texas. Danielle DuFore, a former musical theatre performer notably starring in the National Off Broadway Tour of DreamGirls, has been a collaborator with PWP since 2006. Danielle is exposing children in Akron as well as Washington D.C. to the organization’s educational philosophy. Along with Ivry and Danielle, Calvin Gentry, a former international performer in Les Ballets Trockadero is another longstanding and instrumental member of PWP dancing alongside children in community performances.

PWP has recently celebrated its 10th Anniversary milestone with working in the Akron Public School system in the Akron After School program. Instead of giving something tin, scholarship recipients from AAS, the Infinite Legacy Project (PWP’s outreach program), and Pointillism are presenting a full-length performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Akron-Summit County Public Library in the city’s downtown area next month. The performance will be free and open to the public, where audience members are welcomed recipients of PWP’s gift of giving back. (A formal event release will follow.)

Pointe West Performances is a 501 (c) non-profit organization founded in Akron, Ohio. Contact the company directly for further information at 330.666.2079, www.pointewest.org or info@pointewest.org. Please visit their blog at www.pointewestdance.wordpress.com, Twitter @pointewestdance, and Facebook page at Pointe West Performances, Inc. for current news. The organization is accepting donations, which can be made via Razoo at http://www.razoo.com/story/Follow-The-Magic.

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