Comstock's magazine 0519 - May 2019 - Page 129

D ancing isn’t just dancing to Tamai- ra Sandifer. She believes dance has life-changing power. Better known as “Miss Tee” to her students, she founded Studio T Urban Dance Acade- my to help young people in Sacramento develop confidence, character and hope. Some Studio T students have even gone on to dance professionally for Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Cardi B and Rihanna. But it’s more than just lessons: Sandifer of- fers dance-related programs and prac- tical life workshops for local youth and their families. Sandifer, who says she’s been a dancer and choreographer since age 7, got her start in Sac- ramento after relocating from the Bay Area in 2000 by volun- teering at local dance studios and community centers. She de- cided to pursue teaching dance as a profession and made it her mission to teach kids from un- derserved communities, giving them access to the arts and en- gaging them in positive activities. Since 2012, Sandifer has worked with school districts, com- munity organizations and churches throughout the greater Sacramento area, including Del Paso Heights, North High- lands, Rancho Cordova and south Sac- ramento, to establish dance and practi- cal life workshops where kids and their families reside. “I quickly realized that we were losing kids to drugs, teen pregnan- cy, suicide and third-party homicide, particularly among kids of color,” says Sandifer. “By bringing our programs di- rectly to the kids and creating enrich- ment after-school programs, we were able to keep kids off the street and out of trouble.” Sandifer has launched several pro- grams designed to connect schools, community organizations and teaching artists to focus on developing person- al growth and practical life skills. Pro- grams include Pass to Dance Class, an on-demand virtual dance-class that schools can use for physical education; SacTown Showdown, a talent competi- tion with cash awards for youth in south Sacramento; Graffiti Bridge, a mentor- ship program with resident artists from the Warehouse Artist Lofts; Studio T Hannah Feuerwerker, a dance cap- tain at Studio T, has been teaching dance for six years and was a student for four years before that. “We change people’s lives not just through dance, but also by providing our dance fam- ilies with support,” she says. “We all work to help and inspire one another, both in the classroom and out in the community.” Sandifer also founded California’s National Day of Dance, an event that promotes the availability of performing arts in the Sacramento com- munity. In 2018, she received a $7,000 grant from the City of Sacramento that funded Day of Dance and additional program- ming. Because of this event, she has had the opportunity to bring kids from all over the city together to celebrate dance. “Miss Tee is so dynamic,” says Jody Ulich, director of the City of Sacramento’s Convention & Cultural Services. “She makes a true difference in so many kids’ lives. … [She] teaches them the importance of building character.” “Dance is how we get access, but it’s the messaging that offers perspec- tive, confidence and gives each child a voice,” Sandifer says. “My hope is to open the door to opportunities and give kids a vehicle to achieve success. I believe this is how we build a commu- nity and, ultimately, change a city.” n “dance is how we get access, but it’s the messaging that offers perspective, confidence and gives each child a voice.” — Tamaira “Miss Tee” Sandifer, founder, Studio T Urban Dance Academy Empowering Parents, aka S.T.E.P., work- shops that help “dance families” with financial and meal planning, including the popular How to Not Go Broke at Christmas workshop. Chevonne Reed, a former dance student and mother to 8-year-old hip- hop and ballet dancer Alaiya, is an empowerment workshop leader for Studio T. “A majority of the families we work with are lower income or receive some type of assistance. The practical life workshops teach valuable skills, like budgeting,” says Reed. “Miss Tee’s program is amazing because she’s been where many of her dance families are now.” Christina Kiefer is a communications consultant and freelance writer based in Sacramento who specializes in public re- lations, copywriting, content marketing and strategy. May 2019 | 131