In the sweltering heat of another muggy Miami afternoon, the exuberant teens from Project L.E.A.P. stormed Lincoln Road and performed songs, recited poetry and spoken word in a semi-random act of self-expression and self-empowerment. Project L.E.A.P. is a weekly dance and creative communications program for GLBTQ youth and allies ages 14–18, supported by the Miami Foundation, Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs and the Miami Dance Studio.
The goal of Project L.E.A.P. Is to “improve the lives and cultural outlook of our local GLBTQ teens and allies by providing them with opportunities and focus in the performing arts.” For six months, teens from across Miami-Dade County participated in weekly dance and creative communication sessions led by teaching artists Marie Whitman, Creative Communication, Marissa Nick, Dance, Pioneer Winter, Dance and myself.
The weekly sessions were divided into two hour and a half sections with one section dedicated to creative communications and other dedicated to dance. Project L.E.A.P. Director Pioneer Winter also brought in visiting artists Klye Abraham, Patti Hernandez and Natasha Williams, among others, to lead special classes and focused discussions that covered topics from hip-hop to gender.
“Theater is freedom,” said Cuban director Nelda Castillo at a recent panel discussion for Out in the Tropics Festival. For Castillo, theater served as a platform for expressing issues of gender and sexual identify. Though Project L.E.A.P. has come to an end—for now—the group of teens who participated in the program gained two essential things—friends and freedom of expression.
“Theater is freedom,” said Cuban director Nelda Castillo at a recent panel discussion for Out in the Tropics. In many respects, Project L.E.A.P. and their excursion to Lincoln Road gave these teens that same freedom. It gave these a platform to speak, sing and move in ways that expressed who they really are rather than what society sometimes want them to be.
For more information about Project L.E.A.P., visit here.