Friday afternoons in Venice is not just for hipsters and happy hours. There is also a happening for the tiny set, just behind Abbot Kinney. Beginning at 3pm on Fridays inside the dance studio at Electric Lodge you’ll hear Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift, old school Jackson Five, and see a sea of pink as JillyJazz Kids swings into action.
Neighborhood children arrive by strollers, scooters, bikes, and by foot to dance with professional dancers, Marina Munoz and Jill Strauss. Jill has been teaching adults and teens at Electric Lodge for 20 years. JillyJazz Kids is in it’s fourth year and is the creation of Strauss and Kendell Shaffer, a local Venice mom and dancer, who dreamed of a community minded dance program for Venice.
Strauss and Shaffer are both former students of dance master Luigi in New York City. The Friday classes are full of spinning and leaping little ones, ages 3-12, who are often spotted at Abbot’s Pizza or N’ice Cream following their classes. It’s a great way for the kids to spend a jazzy Friday afternoon in Venice.
Two years ago, JillyJazz Kids took on it’s first scholarship student, a nine year-old from the Neighborhood Youth Association for at-risk kids in Venice. She has been on full scholarship at JJK for two years and Jill recently extended her scholarship to include a 5-week intensive workshop at Crossroads School, where her training now includes ballet, tap and musical theater, all taught by professional dancers and teachers.
Strauss say that, “JillyJazz Kids feel that all students, no matter what their income, should have the opportunity to dance,” and beginning in 2016, JJK will increase it’s scholarship program on Friday awarding three 9-12 year old students, who have been with JJK since the beginning and who show a passion to learn, a partial scholarship.
These three students will become JJK Ambassadors and will help in assisting the teacher in class and have responsibilities outside of class. For example, organizing the Lost and Found, sweeping the studio and welcoming new students.
This year Pardee Properties is partnering up to fund the First Annual Ambassador Scholarship, awarding scholarships to Taylor Mah, Tema Luna Pacheco, Elva Kubiak. All 5th grade students at Westminster Elementary, and all born and raised in Venice. These three girls have been with JillyJazz Kids since it’s inception and have not missed a class since.
JJK hopes to build it’s scholarship program with other neighborhood sponsors to open up more scholarships to new students in the future.