A conference designed to bring information and awareness to young people in the areas of education, employment, health, self-employment, politics, athletics and finances is planned for Sept. 21 at the Bradley-Cleveland Senior Activity Center on Urbane Road.
The purpose is to provide everyone in attendance with a greater sense of self-worth, personal confidence and service to the city of Cleveland and Bradley County.
It is with those things in mind that local professionals are coalescing into a “Community of 1.” The theme of the conference is “Getting Things Started.”
Danielle Farrell, an 18-year-old entrepreneur and dance instructor, is one of the committee members and one of the featured conference speakers.
Her role in the forum is to talk to young people about how dance can be more of a powerful, respectful act of worship unto God, and train young girls to know they do not have to be immoral to gain attention.
“You don’t have to be vulgar or provocative or anything that requires you to subjugate your morals and values,” she said. “You can know Christ is in you and it’s more beautiful than what this world can ever give you. We are asking you to come to be ready to be changed, whether it’s your attitude, changing wardrobe or changing your speech.”
As an older teen, Farrell said viewing online social media provides a window to all of the activity people can entangle themselves in.
“I ask why? Why are you getting involved in this because at the end of the day, what’s it doing for you? This generation, I believe, wants to believe in something. They want to hold onto something. They want to fully commit to something. They may not know what ‘it’ really is.
“I want to say that we are supposed to express ourselves better than this. There is creativity everywhere, and why not use it for God, because he gave it to us. ”
Farrell said her life changed with help from God through prayer. Through God’s help, she has gained the help of others; a connection she described as a miracle. She said the miracle will be realized Friday evening at 6 when she opens Raw Art Dance and Entertainment studio at 2509 North Ocoee St., Suite A.
Part of the miracle was Barbara Day, who met Farrell through her granddaughter who attended a summer camp taught by Farrell. Since then, Day has mentored and helped remodel Suite A and turned it into a studio.
“I’m telling you, we were put together by God. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind and I love her like my own grandchildren. Her mom and dad are very, very special people. Her mother is working hard jobs to help her daughter, who she believes in, get this business started.”
Farrell was born in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago to David and Michelle Farrell. She has a younger sister, Gabby. Both girls have lived in the United States almost their entire lives. She graduated with honors from Walker Valley High School in 2012.
After high school, she briefly attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., where she served on the school’s dance team and was enrolled in the pre-professional dance program.
“I left because God called me back home and gave me this dream now on His time, not mine,” she said. “My original plan was 10 years later at 28 years old. After my professional career, I wanted to open up a dance studio, because it’s a way of finishing out your career. You may not necessarily be dancing, but you’re doing something with dance.” But then, she said, “God unexpectedly changed my plans and put it back in his plan.
“I didn’t ask for this. I don’t mean that in a negative way, it’s just that sometimes we line our lives up some other way, then something happens that we can’t control — and we’re not supposed to control — to line us up a different way.”
The alternative to giving up control, growing and learning every day is stunted growth.
“I want to learn every day,” she said.
Her dream of dancing began even before her first public performance in church.
“I always danced when I was younger. My very first performance was in the church when I was entering the sixth grade when we lived in Michigan,” she said. “We moved to Cleveland eight years ago, and I joined a worship dance team.”
With church as her foundation, she joined the Cleveland Middle School dance team and was fortunate to perform at Disney World. At Walker Valley High School, she served as captain her senior year.
“And I was on an all-star dance team directed by Kelly Owens and trained in a local dance studio,” Farrell said.
Though she is young, the lobby of Raw Art Dance is filled with trophies. Most notable are back-to-back awards as best hip-hop dancer in 2006 and 2007 as a member of the Cleveland Middle School dance team.
In addition to the support of her parents and the Day family, the young businesswoman and dance teacher has four other instructors at the studio, which she hopes will be a place that provides freedom of expression through dance.
“I know a lot of youths who want to express themselves. Sometimes they go off the wrong end because they want an outlet to express themselves or get attention,” she said. “This is a home for that and it’s a positive home.”
Raw Art Dance reflects genuine, down-to-earth people who enter the studio rough or raw, and leave as masterpieces.
“At the end of the day we all have rough edges, and no one in this building tries to be perfect, because we all know we fall very short of perfection,” Farrell said.
“We want kids to come in here with passion, determination, respect and love. We don’t ask you to have 10 years’ dance experience. We want you to come in here expecting to be positive and to be the salt and light of the world, because we are supposed to be the salt and light of the world.”