Melanie Buttarazzi, daughter of Robert Michaels, is an extraordinary professional dancer who danced for artists such as J.Lo, Pit Bull, NeYo, and Pharrell Williams. In August 2013, Buttarazzi embarked on an idea to document how dance can have a life-changing impact of foster youth and their self-expression. She developed a program called Fostering Dreams Through Dance, to empower and inspire foster youth through the art of dance. She has done “several outreach programs a few years back in Toronto and Los Angeles, a side segment to work at schools with underprivileged kids and taught them dance, music and art.”
She and her dance choreographers will work with up to 15 teenage foster youths with their age ranging from 14-15 years old.
The project is a collaboration with Los Angeles-based First Star, a nonprofit that places 25 foster youths at UCLA each summer to take a summer program of classes. Buttarazzi and her team of world renowned choreographers will work with the foster youth group for 30 days and document the impact of dance on their lives.
After the 30 days, participants will choreograph and perform for the annul talent show at First Star to showcase their work through their own self-expression. The youth will also be given scholarships to some of the top dance studios in Los Angeles.
“We have two studios signed on already Athletic Garage and Independent Dance Company,” Buttarazzi said.
She reached out to supporters and choreographers who were on board with this documentary. The choreographers include: Sean Cheesman, Stacy Walker, Gustavo Vargas, Isabella Grosso, Robert ‘Chino’ Lopez, Aukai Cain, Jasmin Figuiera and herself. Close to $80K of free time has been donated from various people to make this project possible in July. In addition, she and her team are using Kickstarter, a fundraising platform to raise remaining funds to make this project happen.
They will be documenting the youths’ experience before, during and after the dance program is introduced into their lives. The project goal is to help youths develop a stronger voice and sense of self-expression through dance.
Buttarazzi also hopes to learn about any academic improvement among youths who participate. Only about 3 percent of foster youths pursue post- secondary education , but more than 30 percent of First Star’s foster youth pursure their education. She and her team are excited to see how the power of dance can make a profound difference to this group of foster youth, and hopefully reach others around the world.