After school dance program helps young girls

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COLUMBIA - The Boys and Girls Club in Columbia has one program that is helping young girls through different styles of dance. 

Nyah Adair is one of those girls. She is 11-years-old and she likes to dance.

"I like to dance because it's fun and I get to hangout with teammates and meet new people," Adair said.

Without the First Position Dance Group within the Boys and Girls Club, Naya might not have the opportunity to explore her newfound passion. Executive Director Valorie Livingston said the Boys and Girls Club offers after school programming in four core areas, healthy lifestyle, academic success, good character and citizenship. The dance program fits these areas while allowing young girls ages 6 to 18 the chance to give dance a try.

"The First Position Dance program is one of those programs that interests a lot of little girls that love to dance in ballet, and tap, and jazz, and hip hop, so we're very excited to be able to offer those opportunities to children that would not otherwise be able to afford or attend those kinds of programs," Livingston said.

Operations Director and Nyah's mother Nicolle Adair said The Boys and Girls Club dance program is one of the fastest growing programs. When it started in 2012 it had only seven members. Now, it has more than 50 participants and an ongoing waiting list.

"It has really grown and there's a lot of positive that comes out of it," Adair said.

These positive effects include bettering the health and attendance of the dance program participants.

"I've seen kids BMI lower, I've seen kids improve academically, I've seen kids that have attended the club 2 or 3 times in their first year, enter dance and then have an 88 percent improvement rate in their attendance," Adair said.

She said she sees some of these positive changes within Nyah.

"It's really exciting to watch her grow and mature and that level of discipline that it takes fundamentally to be in dance, it's really been exciting," Adair said.

Livingston and Adair both said one thing that often goes unnoticed with the dance program is the large of amount parent involvement that it has now compared to other Boys and Girls programs, although it didn't begin that way.

"There were probably 30 parents at our first holiday recital and at our last spring recital we had to move it to Alpha Hart Elementary School because there was probably over 100 people," Adair said. "There were grandparents, classroom teachers, there were community members and parents that were really engaged."

Adair said as a parent, it is her opinion that parents find it enjoyable to get involved with the dance program because of the sense of pride they feel when watching their child.

"I think part of it is parents evolve with the dancer too, part of our mission and part of what we want to do is be able to treat our parents holistically, so I think the whole family gets positive results from it," Adair said.

She said she even feels this growth when she watches Nyah dance.

"I don't know why we cry every time that they're in recitals or things like that and it's probably for me watching the work," Adair said.

One thing for sure is that this program has helped Nyah make big dreams for herself as a professional dancer among other things.

"Either that or a singer or if none of those work out I'll be a lawyer," Adair said.

The First Position Dance Group will be holding their next holiday recital on December 4th at Hickman High school.