Veteran Harlem dancer brings expertise to Quincy
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
QUINCY — For about three hours ballerina Lindsey Croop took a group of young dancers through a practice inside the Quincy Recreation.
Some steps that they went through Saturday morning seemingly presented a challenge. Others appeared to be routine.
Croop’s session with the children was part of the weekend celebration that marked the 10th anniversary of the Legacy School of Performing Arts. The class also was scheduled by Legacy founder Rasheen Jamison-Richardson to help the children cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.
The 1,700-square foot building that houses the Legacy school sustained water damage from the storm in November. Members of the school hadn’t practiced since the hurricane.
The Saturday morning practice also was a prelude to a fund-raising gala later in the evening when Croop performed with some of the children.
The original invitation to the Dance Theatre of Harlem was for a guest performer at the gala before Michael. Croop eagerly answered the call when she found it would be an inspiration for the students.
It was an easy decision to come, said Croop, after Jamison-Richardson took care of the logistics of bringing her from New York.
“I love connecting outside of my bubble of New York,” she said. “I’ve learned what the arts can do for individuals and obviously children can learn so much from being exposed to things like that.”
She exposed them to plenty.
Just before getting into a common step known as a coupe, Croop suggested a basic technique to the wide-eyed group.
“From your abs,” she said in a mild tone. “I want you to pull up.”
Following her lead, the group got into executing the coupe. They brought their right foot just above the left ankle before working it to the knee. They did the reverse with the left foot.
Emanuel Johnson, a singer with Legacy before his family moved to North Carolina a year ago, returned with his family for the weekend celebration. Participation in a ballet practice was a first for him, said Johnson, 11.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” he said, “but she made it easy because she knew that we are beginners and she knew how to talk to us.”
Blanca Maldonado-Young, daughter-in-law of Gadsden County Sheriff Maurice Young, brought her 3-year-old daughter Gabriela, to the practice. Gabriela shadowed Croop’s every move.
“I think (Croop) did a great job in getting the kids’ attention,” Maldonado-Young said. “You have a 3-year-old all the way up to teenagers and they were very much engaged. Her tone was very calming and relaxed so I think that got their attention.”
For several months, it seemed Croop’s visit wasn’t going to happen, Jamison-Richardson said. She requested the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s participation in March.
However, one day after Hurricane Michael struck the Panhandle, Croop responded, setting the wheels in motion for her to make it to Quincy.
“For her to come is amazing,” Jamison-Richardson said, adding that Croop didn’t request a fee.
The focus now is on restoring Legacy’s building, said Jamison-Richardson, who founded Legacy with her husband in 2008. Rebuilding is a slow process, but the children make the process worthwhile, she said.
“I’m going to pace myself to get it done right,” she said. “I’m not going to let any child under my watch into a raggedy place because if something happens to them I couldn’t live.”
Meanwhile, being able to practice with the children was gratifying, Croop said.
“It was really fun,” she said. “I feel that the kids have a rawness of spirit; excited and bubbly. I love coming in and collecting that energy and put it in a direction.
“This is one of those things that’s not like basketball. You can’t just practice your jump shot in your backyard. There is a lot more structure to it.”