A dancer at heart, Rolling Meadows Steward Artez Jackson has turned his passion for dance into an opportunity that empowers youth by building their self-worth through pre-professional dance training in Chicago’s most challenging communities.
The Move Me Soul Dance Company was created at Austin High School in 2008 as a youth dance company that fuses technique, performance and character development. A few years after the company was formed, Artez joined his friend and company founder, Ayesha, and he became the rehearsal director and a choreographer for Move Me Soul.
Move Me Soul started to grow on both the West and South side of Chicago and it was soon added as an After School Matters club. The After School Matters program formed over 20 years ago from the desire of then-Chicago First Lady Maggie Daley and former Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Lois Weisberg to develop cultural activities for Chicago Public Schools students. The program’s original name was “gallery37” after the inaugural event was held at the then undeveloped Block 37 shopping area downtown.
These programs are offered at no cost to the Chicago teens or their families. Parents and teens can apply for programs they wish to participate in each semester by signing up on the After School Matters website. Artez was one of the teenagers that apprenticed with professional artists through the gallery37 program and knew the value it would bring to the kids.
“When a child or young teenager has a talent, it must be nurtured in order for them to live out their dreams,” said Artez.
As a young child, Artez would make everyone smile by dancing around the house at family gatherings. A few years later, as a teenager, he was formally introduced to the world of dance as he began training while attending Curie High School in Chicago. Before dancing professionally, Artez studied ballet and many other types of dance and took a break from school to go to New York and study at the Alvin Ailey summer dance intensive.
“When I was dancing in New York, I had no money and slept on my friend’s apartment floor,” said Artez. “It was crazy but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Artez received his bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Northern Illinois University in 2003 and started working at the Clerk’s office in 2006. Since then, he has enjoyed dancing in companies, choreographing pieces for dance groups across the city and his involvement at Move Me Soul.
“I love it,” said Artez. “Dance is my passion and I always wanted to teach and give back.”
The Move Me Soul Dance Company presents three main stage concerts during its winter, spring and summer seasons. The kids practice three times a week during the school year and are also taught life skills and go through workshops to prepare them for college.
To see pictures, videos and to find out more information about Move Me Soul, please visit https://movemesoul.wordpress.com. Spring show dates will be announced soon. To learn more about the After School Matters program, please visit www.afterschoolmatters.org.