The lack of affordable recreation available in Louisville’s predominately black West End is an issue that many local activists believe contribute to the high crime rate amongst young people in that area.
In recent years the area has experienced the closing of several Boys and Girls Clubs as well as other community centers that specifically provide programs for the youth.
Lack of funding and volunteers are often the primary factors that lead to the closing of most community centers within Louisville’s West End. Many of the children that rely on the facilities come from low-income households and are not able to financially support its overhead.
Growing up in the West End, 29 year-old, James Haymon, knows this scenario all-too-well and decided that he would try to make a difference. Haymon operates a “Low Cost” performing arts studio called West Louisville Talent Development Center located at 3050 West Broadway.
“It’s a development center based on trying to give back in a positive way and trying to get the kids to reach their highest potential in the fields of dance, cheer, gymnastics and modeling. In addition to the physical instruction, we do whatever we can do to boost their confidence and self-esteem.” – James Haymon
The studio provides dance, cheer, modeling and ballet lessons for children ages three (3) and up. Classes are in session on Mon, Wed & Fri from 6 pm to 8 pm and on Saturday’s from 1 pm to 3 pm.
“We work on fundamentals, so we have a beginners, intermediate and advanced level dance program…If a child is 3 years-old we automatically place them in the beginners program and allow them to work their way up.” -James Haymon
Haymon realizes that many children from low-income households aren’t able to afford the high cost of performing arts lessons, which typically average over $100 per month for four (4) one-hour classes. To address this issue, tuition at the West Louisville Talent Development Center is only $50 per month for sixteen (16) two-hour classes.
“Pricing is $50 per month and an additional $25 to become a member. What’s good about becoming a member is that they [children] have access to private lessons which include private tumbling lessons, private motions, private jumps and they have access to the studio for birthday parties and other private events.”– James Haymon
Performing arts aren’t the only courses on the curriculum for students enrolled at the West Louisville Talent Development Center. Education and healthy eating habits are also encouraged by staff members. Students are required to bring books, paper and homework every Monday and Wednesday for an hour long tutoring session prior to beginning their performing arts lessons.
“Not only do I work with the kids on dance. I work with them on tutoring and give them health seminars because we are very big on healthy eating. We are trying to educate them on the dangers of obesity and not eating healthy.” -James Haymon
Haymon began taking performing arts classes at Kennedy Elementary School and enrolled in classes with the Louisville Ballet at six years-old. He continued studying dance and performing arts at Frost Middle and at Manual High School’s Youth Performing Arts School (YPAS).
At YPAS he majored in dance which consists of courses in ballet, modern jazz, dance compostion and dance improv. Following high school he majored in dance at Western Kentucky University, coached dance and cheer for JFK, King and Byck Elementary School’s, as well as several little league programs throughout the city of Louisville.
Haymon is currently studying Elementary Education at Kentucky State University and is a member of the school’s cheerleading squad.
The long term goal for the West Louisville Talent Development Center is to become the first premier Urban performing arts center in West Louisville. Haymon hopes to produce Louisville’s first black Ms. Prima Ballerina and also win national titles in dance and cheer competitions.
“This eventually will be a performing arts center for youth rather than just a studio. I would like to develop all the students that are planning to take performing arts classes in high school so that they will have a certain level of experience when they enter those programs.” – James Haymon
Haymon has developed a dance and cheer team named Top Notch Elite Cheerndance Allstars which he plans to enter into the cheer and dance exhibition at the Kentucky State Fair on August 29, 2015, providing enough money is raised to cover the cost of the team’s uniforms.
His students are well trained and Haymon feels as though the experience gained from performing in a professional dance exhibition will further motivate his young team.
Uniforms for the entire team are approximately $4,000 and Haymon is desperately seeking sponsors and donations.
Haymond can be reached for enrollment or donations at (502) 656-1304 or at (866) 623-8609. He can also be contacted on Facebook at James Fatdaddy or on the TopNotch Elite Cheerndance Allstars Facebook page.