Smells of pikliz, arroz con pollo, Publix fried chicken and other homemade Miami potluck staples wafted out of the Adrienne Arsht Center as parents, guardians and friends gathered to see a culmination of what their kids learned from the six-week-long immersive AileyCamp.
Nearly 100 Miami-Dade public middle school students spent those weeks at AileyCamp studying various dance styles, music and creative communication techniques like spoken word.
Arsht Center Vice President of Education and Community Engagement Jairo Ontiveros said AileyCamp uses the vehicle of the arts to boost the self-esteem of children. He said that many participants may have never danced, written a poem, or met another child outside of the area where they grew up and the camp gives them that opportunity.
"Conflict resolution, peer pressure, bullying, a lot of these social issues that kids age 11 to 14 go through may not usually be covered in class," Ontiveros said.
"These are real challenges that these children go through. So they come to the AileyCamp to not only stretch their minds, but to use their voice and harness their power," he said.
12-year-old Country Club Middle School student Carleah Kinchen said she comes home every night with sore knees, but it's because she's really giving the camp her all.
She said she's been dancing in various styles since she was young, and likes learning techniques from West African dances, modern and jazz.
"It gives you a way to have attitude and be free," Kinchen said.
Her mom, Tiffiney Toombs, bandages her knees and is grateful that her daughter finally has an outlet to express herself.
“Once she’s on the stage she just becomes a totally different person. So she’ll be dancing as long as she can - as long as these knees hold up,” said Toombs.
— Lily Oppenheimer (@LilyOppenheimer) July 22, 2019
Cambridge Academy magnet middle school student Jayla Best lives in Liberty City and said she was immediately attracted to the opportunity to explore new rythms and dances.
"During my interview, I liked how they said you were going to go over every dance - jazz, hip hop, African," Best said. "It just made me feel like I really wanted to come here."
In addition to the show for families and friends, the AileyCamp will be hosting a free talent show on Saturday, Aug. 3, at the Arsht Center's Knight Concert Hall. It's called, 'Imagine Us' and it comes with a challenge for the city.
"We're challenging Miami to also think about the future of these children that will be taking the stage," said Ontiveros.