ROCHESTER — Members of the True Dance troupe say that they are happy to be part of something that brings them attention in a positive way.
The troupe, led by instructor Jayme Bermúdez, usually practices three times a week at the Reformed Lutheran Church on Chestnut Street. Bermúdez is part of an effort by Young Audiences, which has been offering dual-language instructors for years, to recruit more Latino artists and performers to its roster of instructors.
During a rehearsal at the 1 Favor St. Center on April 24, almost every dancer said that it was a friend who told them about the dance group.
Tyrell Davidson, 19, introduced Marlin Leon to the group. And because of the training the group has received over the past 18 months, Leon said that he is hoping to study dance at Nazareth College or SUNY Brockport.
"He is a phenomenal teacher," Leon said of Bermúdez. "I would love to keep growing."
Dancers such as Davidson and Leon came to the group with raw skills, explained Bermúdez. And he has tried to instill in them the value of learning technique in different styles as a foundation to develop their dance skills, he added.
"One of the young men wants to get paid and dance," Bermúdez said. "I say it’s possible because of what Young Audiences is doing for people like myself. You get a dance class. I get paid. But you have to put in the work. Don’t waste my time."
He also pulls no punches as he points out technique and blocking errors the dancers made during the April 24 rehearsal.
"I hold a high bar for them because I believe in their talent," Bermúdez noted.
The dancers were preparing for a Young Audience’s "Cypher’s Stand Against Racism" event the following evening.
"We’re taking a stand against the many things that make our world horrible," said Shantia Hunt, a 16-year-old junior at School of the Arts. "Dancing and singing tell a story. … And that story connects with people. And the people who understand it may be able to take part in making it (the world) better."
Bermúdez tells the dancers to remember that they are warriors in this dance, which he titled "Dare to be Different."
"This is about the concrete jungle and the expectations being asked of you," he explained. "They need to set that stage on fire. They need to be in their (audiences’) faces."
The dancers say they appreciate Bermúdez’s passion for dance and for helping them become better people.
"He makes us a better dancer but also teaches us the skills we need to succeed whether we want to be a teacher or be on TV," noted Davidson, a Charlotte High School senior who is one of three brothers that are part of Bermúdez’s group.
"We teach him something and he teaches us something," remarked Hajah Fisher, 18, also a SOTA junior.
"We’re like a big family," Shantia added. "We get along really well."