A Chance to Dance
Jul 08, 2011 12:25PM ● Published by Style
Photos by Dante Fontana
Eleven-year-old Yuhnuen Contreras of Sacramento has been dancing at Studio T Urban Dance Academy in Rancho Cordova for two years.
In that time, under the leadership of the studio’s founder and owner Tamaira Sandifer, Contreras has gained confidence as she let go of her shyness and is now more motivated to be a better and more responsible person. “Mrs. T is a great teacher, and I have learned to never give up on anything I want,” Contreras says. “When I feel like quitting, I always remember her saying, ‘You fight ‘til you get it!’ And that makes me fight harder.”
The soon-to-be seventh grader is just one of hundreds of local students inspired by Sandifer and her motto: “If you don’t quit, you win.” “We invest in these kids,” Sandifer explains. “We understand that there’s a need for someone to tell them they can do this. Then they take that lesson with them and apply it to other areas of their lives.”
In 2006, one year after opening Studio T with her husband, Sandifer realized many kids didn’t always have the means to pay for classes or a ride to get there. Consequently, she founded 3 Point 0, Inc., a non-profit organization that’s completely funded by donations and fundraisers. With that money, 3 Point 0, Inc. provides health and educational support services to Sacramento-area youth and covers the costs to send dancers to competitions, workshops and auditions. To qualify for the nonprofit’s financial aid, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA, and if they don’t, they’ll use the organization’s tutoring services to improve their grades.
Whether Sandifer finds her students through her non-profit work or parents and kids find her, the goal is always the same – get them interested in the arts. Once they begin, the students can jump into any class to find a style of dance they love, and then Sandifer and her staff encourage them to train to succeed in that specific area. And with the recent wave of new technology, students can practice moves and routines anytime and anywhere with help of the studio’s YouTube dance tutorials and mobile phone dance apps.
Though each student’s experience at Studio T is very personal in how it changes them, the stories are all very similar. “Our greatest impact has been the ability to reach young people and encourage and inspire them to be more than they thought they could be,” she says.
Over the years, Sandifer’s seen both student dancers and instructors succeed in the professional world, whether it’s competing on dance-themed reality TV shows or going on tour with Justin Bieber or Britney Spears. As well, Sandifer says her life changes too when she sees her students thriving. “These results are very real results. I get phone calls, Facebook posts and texts from these kids, past and present. They’ll say, ‘I still hear your voice telling me not to quit,’” she says. “That’s why we continue to do what we do and grow with it.”