Since 2009, Outreach Through Dance has demonstrated the power of service, empathy, artistic expression and hope, through an event called “Dance For A Wish.” In collaboration with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, OTD “adopts” a child with a life-threatening medical condition, and raises funds through the show to make the child’s wish come true. I sat down with the Founder of OTD and mastermind behind all of its projects, Melissa Adao, for a more in-depth look at this year’s production.
“OTD is all about creating relationships. The roots of any community lies in the individual relationships you form.”
Melissa has been dancing in the San Diego community since 1997. She is a professor at CSU San Marcos, Grossmont College, Mesa College, a prominent community leader, a mentor to many young dancers, and a personal role model of mine. Her positivity is infectious, her warmth comforting, and her energy impossible to ignore. It’s no wonder her endeavors always gather snowballing support- she is a leader who believes in and lives out her mission, day to day.
“The vision for OTD came in 2008. The first production was in 2009. Originally, I wanted to bring together Grossmont and Mesa to do a performance. Then I realized that I need more than just my own work- so I brought in other artists, like Kristen, Elm, Philip, Tessie, and the other dancers that I respect and look up to, people who believed in Make A Wish and what OTD could become. You could say that the first year was “Mel and Friends.” But all the artists had faith in the vision, and we all wanted to create something for the community.”
What Makes Dance For A Wish Unique?
While I enjoy competitions and exhibition shows, what has always attracted me to Dance For A Wish was that, ingrained in each staff and audience member/dancer/supporter, was a communal purpose.
“We are becoming intimate with a wish child and their family. I feel that we dance because it brings peace to our souls. It’s our outlet, our escape, our passion. And to use something we love so much to help give a child something to look forward to, to live for, is a really unique and honored experience.
A lot of the times, the kids are dealing with pains and struggles that they don’t deserve, that they feel helpless against. But they know that this show is dedicated to them, and all of the people involved are working to make their dream come true.”
The show has always served as a hopeful reminder of the richness of the human experience.
Another unique aspect of Dance For A Wish is that the performances are mostly project-based. That is, the usual junior and adult teams of the community are not performing. Rather, each “artist” gathers a group of dancers, most likely from different teams, as the cast of their piece. This allows for a unique combination of voices to mix, for room to experiment and explore, and for the synergy of energies and ideas. It gives the artist a chance to tell their story, and for the rest of us to see, feel, understand, and relate to it. The power of expression, sharing, and touching adds an extra element of purpose to what everyone is doing.
This year, some of the featured artists include:
Keone and Mari Madrid Erik Saradpon Melody Jackson San Diego Hip Hop Dance Team Directors Ryan Spink Brian Carranza, Carlo Darang, and Charles Graham Artistic Renegades The Bots … and many more!
It’s always interesting to see these pieces as a direct reflection of where the artist is in their journey as a dancer. Appropriately, this year’s theme, “Where Are They Now“, centers around both the Wish Children and the Artists of the show. It will be a 6-year benchmark since Melissa’s first ventures with OTD.
As for the origins of Melissa’s drive?
“When you have a challenging past… when you come from a place where you don’t have much.. The worst thing to do is to self-victimize. I refuse to have a ‘woe-is-me’ attitude! Redirecting that past pain toward helping others who may be struggling is personal therapy. Doing good in the community, investing my time toward opening doors- this is how I manage life. You can always choose what energy to give off. And if you exude positivity, you will attract positivity. If everyone is using their gifts to give back, success comes naturally.”
The successes of OTD have come from intrinsic, organic motivation from everyone involved- the desire to create an atmosphere of service, empowerment, inspiration. There is no trophy or monetary reward. Simply, driven, like-minded individuals who share the same vision.
An example as such is the Random Act of Kindness (RAK) Challenge we have all seen circulating social media. The organic virality of this challenge has helped promote the mission of OTD and has spread the encouragement of paying it forward simply to brighten someone else’s day.
As fun as competitions can be, I feel it is absolutely important for dancers to be redirected to their personal “Why”. For this reason, Melissa encourages each of YOU to attend, just to get to know OTD. Or just sit down and re-evaluate who you are as a dancer, and what you can do to empower and inspire the community around you. How you can express for something you believe in?
“OTD strives to create an atmosphere that adds value to the quality of life for everyone involved. Think to reset your purpose, what you dance for, what you live for. Most importantly, love, care for, and respect those relationships that build the community around you.”
This year in particular, aside from artistic showcases, there will be an opportunity drawing for some great prizes, and 100% of the proceeds will be going towards the Make-A-Wish Foundation in San Diego.
Raffle Items include Universal Studio Tickets, Disneyland Tickets, Movement Lifestyle basket, dance class cards, 858 Crossfit, gear from Kingdom Made, Antithesis, haircuts from Isaac Diaz and CUT Salon, Go Pro accessories, and more!
When: Sunday, October 19th Time: 6:30pm Where: Culture Shock Dance Center
2110 Hancock St #200, San Diego, CA 92110
A Final Note From Melissa:
I would like to include the past and current staff who have helped shape OTD to what it is today. Without these people, OTD would not be as successful: I had the honor of having Sara Orbita, Nick Keomahavong, and Desiree Navadeh help build this organization. Their talent and expertise contributed to each shows success. Later Lovelyn Layug and Sasha Pizarro joined us. Followed by Jenny Reynolds and Marc Ceres. This years talented production team includes Lovelyn Layug, Raffy Piamonte, Nic Ballecar, Vicki Lisama, Tiffany Le, and Emmett Agapay.