Lakey Evans-Pena, Williamsburg Music And Arts Center
by Lisa A. Fraser
May 24, 2011 | 14752 views | 0 0 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For Lakey Evans-Pena, it's not about the competition or about being the best, it's about enjoying the experience. That's her mission at the Williamsburg Music and Arts Center, where children and adults can enjoy the process of learning various types of dance and other physical activities like capoeira, zumba and circus arts.

Her aim is to create the kind of fun learning environment that doesn't require one who seeks it to travel to Manhattan to find it; they can receive it right in their own backyard.

“We want to bring those things that exist elsewhere here,” said Evans, who started dancing at the age of three and has studied at the Alvin Ailey American Dance School and Ailey II.

She decided to open up the center because of the lack of a neighborhood studio that children could attend after school, and where adults could bond with their children even more through taking classes together.

“I was looking around for a place to go, but I couldn't find a studio that was on par with what I love about dance,” she said. At the time, the Pennsylvania native and mother of two had recently moved to Williamsburg to live with her husband. She had begun to teach a Mighty Mamas dance class at McCarren Park and saw that she wasn't the only one searching.

“I talked to moms and asked, 'what do you think of a dance studio?' They were all behind it,” she said. In 2010, she and her husband decided to open the center.

“It was about my kids as well as the neighborhood's children,” she said.

Catering to the neighborhood's needs, the center offers tap, ballet, jazz and modern dance classes to roughly 150 children, including a recently formed boys-only Boys Blast dancing class. But it doesn't stop there. They also offer acting classes and for the more adventurous, a circus arts classes for ages 5-12, run by Karen Gersch, a founding member of the Big Apple Circus.

For adults, classes range from modern, ballet, salsa, zumba fitness and the Brazilian mixed martial arts, capoeira. The center also offers a dancing babies and dancing toddlers class.

Evans-Pena makes it a duty to set up a talent show each spring, showcasing every child's ability, whether perfect or imperfect.

“For us, it's not important what they do, it's about them being proud to be up on stage. They take such pride in it,” she said. Her larger aim is to have neighborhood kids be able to perform for the community at different schools - all without the pressure. “It's not to be the greatest, but about learning a discipline and dedicating yourself to something.”

This spring, the performance will be held on June 19. Visit the website for more information on classes and performances or call (718) 866-6811.

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