Cleveland non-profit on mission to help dancers strengthen skills, pursue higher education

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — A Cleveland non-profit dance organization is on a mission. 

“At Buck Out Cleveland, our mission is to utilize dance to bridge the gap between Northeast Ohio youth and higher education at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) while also realizing that there is an opportunity to pursue your dance career,” said founder and executive director LaChanee Hipps.

There have been challenges in this pandemic, such as fundraising and some changes like social distancing, but that hasn’t changed the goal for the high school girls we met on Wednesday.

“I wasn’t getting what I felt I needed to be on a collegiate team,” said one of the dancing students, Kaylen Bannerman, who is a senior in high school.

Hipps knows that struggle firsthand when she initially auditioned to dance at Alabama State University. 

“I lacked the dance technique, the basic fundamentals in jazz and ballet in order for me to be successful at that audition,” she said.

After training all of freshman year, she made the team for the rest of her college career and is now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers Powerhouse Dance Team.

She feels compelled to help others in their journey. 

“You have your basic ballet fundamentals, and some collegiate teams take it higher than that. You have jazz, you have hip hop, you have jazz-funk. Roll that all into one you get this HBCU style of dance,” she said.

But Hipps pushes beyond the technical. 

“I love it because of the discipline. I love it because of the consistency. I love it because of the style,” said Maria-Lynn Ogletree, a mother of one of the dancers.

“I also learned professionalism like outside of dance and then I learned sisterhood and just being a leader,” said Bannerman.

Hipps relies on fundraisers and community support to help cover the costs of uniforms and travel. College assistance organizations like the HBCU Alumni Council of Greater Cleveland and College Now help secure scholarships and financial aid for her students.

“Our communities that solely look towards these genres of dance are the communities that are financially impacted the most,” she said.

Her students know that she is invested in their success. 

“She is probably the most, one of the most important people in my life because of where I came from and where she took me,” said Bannerman.

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