DASH Center celebrates 10 years

// Events include masquerade ball and much more

DASH Center for the Arts turns 10 years old next month, and big things are in the works to celebrate this important milestone for the center, its founder/executive director Candi Hall, and for the city of Tacoma itself.

“I’ve been wanting to have a big event to celebrate my 10 years, so I gotta have a party,” Hall said. To this end, she’s planning a Masquerade Extravaganza for May 4. It will feature a red carpet and photo ops with exclusive coverage by Girl E Tyme TV, DJs spinning, performances throughout the night, complimentary hors d’oeuvres, best mask and belle/beau of the ball contests and much more.

“I just want people to be able to come out and have a really good time and for it to be an event to remember,” Hall said.

Before this event, though, there will be something going on each weekend throughout April. On April 20, “Music, Mics and Moves” will happen at Vinum Coffee and Wine Lounge. Vocalists, DASH instructors playing piano and Spanish guitar, dance, spoken word, singers, music and more will entertain guests in an intimate atmosphere.

“I am blown away that a dance team I started to give my little sister something to do has grown into an amazing, full-fledged performing arts center,” - Candi Hall, founder/executive director

“Just a little bit of everything we do at the center,” as Hall described it. “(Music, Mics and Moves) is something else we can do to bring the community in, so just come, sit, have a glass of wine and enjoy a nice show.”

Adding to the April festivities, professional hip hop dance instructor Anthony "Redd" Williams will be visiting again from St. Louis to teach and hold workshops at the center. He’ll participate in an April 27 panel discussion with other artists in the entertainment industry to talk about the things that aspiring performance artists should look out for when going into the industry. Admission will be free for Tacoma Public School students, and scholarships will be available to the workshops.

Go to Facebook and “like” the DASH Center page to stay informed of ongoing developments and ticket information.

A DECADE OF CHANGING LIVES

*D*ancing, *A*cting and *S*inging in *H*armony – this was the vision that first set Hall onto her now 10-year journey of building her DASH dream on the corner of South 15th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. It hasn’t been easy. DASH Center has never been handed anything; rather, the center has been built with the blood, sweat and tears of those who believe in its mission. Working practically 24/7 for DASH, Hall does not get paid for it – in fact, she’s put her own rent and bills on hold whenever she’s had to in order to keep the DASH doors open. That’s her level of commitment, and it has earned her the respect and admiration of countless people.

It all started in 2001 with a roomful of little girls from Jason Lee and Stewart middle schools who wanted to learn how to dance.

“I am blown away that a dance team I started to give my little sister something to do has grown into an amazing, full-fledged performing arts center,” Hall said. The dance team was given the name Reality Check, and it’s going stronger than ever.

To be part of Reality Check, team members must maintain a 2.7 grade point average, and a 3.0 for the privilege of performing. This standard applies to all classes at DASH.

“It really pushes (the students) to make an effort to excel,” Hall explained. “It tells them it’s not okay to do just the minimum – that they have to do their very best and that needs to transcend everything they do in life. I tell them, ‘If you can give it to me on the dance floor or onstage, then I expect you to give it to me at school and to your parents at home. You need to be the very best you that you can be.’”

Some DASH students have earned the Elizabeth Wesley Youth Merit Award for their academic and civic achievements. Their photos are displayed at Tacoma Mall.

In 2003, Hall incorporated DASH Center and received its non-profit 501(c)3 status. A board of directors was assembled. Creative instructors brought their skills, an administrative staff was put together and donors pitched in, along with parents and many volunteers. It didn’t take long for the broader community to embrace DASH Center and offer support.

“It’s really great how much the community has embraced the organization and how much the community feels we are an important part of Tacoma’s make-up and what’s needed in the city and for our kids,” Hall said.

Soon, the name of DASH Center began to get around, along with its reputation for excellence. Its students were getting noticed too, especially at the then-brand new Tacoma School of the Arts (SOTA).

“We had six kids in the very first class of SOTA,” Hall said. “And every year thereafter any of our kids that auditioned for SOTA got in, so we had a 100 percent placement at SOTA to the point that people were saying, ‘My child wants to go to SOTA but I understand I need to bring her to DASH first to get her ready for that.’”

In 2006, DASH Center officially opened at 1504 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Now, having just received a bright, new, eye-catching paint job (courtesy of Rusty George Creative, which also built the center’s new website, logo and branding), the center looks all dressed up and ready to embark on another 10 years of changing the lives of urban youth. With DASH Center, the kids have a place to go after school where they can find love and respect, meaning, purpose, and pure joy through expressing themselves.

While it wouldn’t be possible to list here all the businesses and individuals that have helped DASH get to where it is today, Hall thanked Rusty George Creative, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, Victoria Woodards (“She’s been a DASH supporter even before DASH was DASH,” Hall said), Normanna Hall Association (the center’s property managers), City of Tacoma, Brenda Garcia Brown (Hall’s business partner for many years) and Richard Brown (who did most of the construction work to build the center).

Entering into their second decade, and serving more than 500 young people each year, Hall and the DASH family have all kinds of big plans for the kids that go there, presenting the perfect opportunity for the public at large to commit a random act of kindness and help the center continue to honor its blessed reason for existing. DASH is now looking to expand and diversify its board of directors, and plans to launch a new campaign whereby supporters can make regular monthly donations of any amount. Times are tough these days, especially for the arts, and the dreaded thought of shuttering the center has entered Hall’s thoughts lately.

“Earlier this year I was trying to decide if this was going to be 10 years and that’s it, or if we should push forward and keep going. We’re at the cusp that we’re either going to fully do it or say it was a good run and a great 10 years.”

Hall said she’s excited for what’s to come, and has confidence that the community will help the center thrive. “I don’t think we’re ready to give up just yet,” she said.

Over the past decade DASH has grown beyond simply dancing, acting and singing to encompass empowerment, determination and encouragement – the very qualities that everyone involved in the center, and those who care about it, must now embrace to keep this unique and life-changing organization there for the kids. Those interested in making monthly donations to the center can sign up quickly and easily at www.thedashcenter.org.

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