CLEVELAND — La Chanee Davis and the Buck Out Cleveland dancers are preparing for their annual dance showcase, practicing a dance style that's close to Davis' heart, and one that can be found on Historically Black College and University campuses across the country.
“This dance style has really captured the brown and Black dancers in our community here in Cleveland,” Davis said.
The public agency Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, which helps fund hundreds of institutions and organizations in the county, helped make sure these dancers didn't miss a step.
“We saw that they have project support funding. Instantly we thought that it would be a great approach to offer our halftime dance showcase,” Davis said.
Davis attended Alabama State University where she was a dancer for the school's marching band. Her love for classically-trained moves mixed with hip hop and soul swag led her to bring majorette-style dancing back to Cleveland. Davis started the Buck Out Cleveland foundation in 2019, with a mission to bridge the gap between Cleveland youth and educational, professional dance opportunities at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“One of the best feelings is being able to like visit or go to one of the HBCUs that our dancers are at,” Davis said.
Many of Davis’ students have gone on to attend and dance at HBCUs or at a professional level. Student Ariyonne Highsmith has done just that. She’s taken charge of outreach, introducing Cleveland kids at schools and recreation centers to Buck Out.
“I'm able to give back to kids that were like me,” Highsmith said.
For 2022, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture has awarded $11.6 million in grants.
“We do that by taxing cigarettes and so it's a unique model but one that's really has quite a lot of attention throughout the nation and allows us to take dollars from the community and invest them right back in, to make sure that every resident gets connected arts and culture,” said Jill Paulsen of Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.
Paulsen said supporting arts these last few years have been vital.
“As we think about surviving and emerging from the pandemic, which will take a few years now still, this was an industry that was the hardest hit of any,” Paulson said.
Davis said she's grateful to continue teaching and dancing, even through challenging times.
“A dance career as an obtainable thing. You can pay your rent, you can pay your bills you can have whatever you want and use your hobby or your love for dance to do it. It's possible and I’m excited it just happy to be an example of that,” Davis said.