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Pico-Union dance studio reopens

November 21, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Hundreds of inner-city children are celebrating the chance to dance again. They're students at Gabriella's Place, a non-profit dance studio in the Pico-Union area. Weather damage forced it to close three years ago. It has reopened in a new facility that's better than ever. For 10-year-old Lillian Gonzalez, dancing gives her wings.

"I really like dance. It's like a spirit for me to express myself," said Lillian.

Lillian says she dances in part to free herself from the troubles plaguing her inner-city Pico-Union community.

"If I feel, like, frustrated or something, I just act like I'm happy," said Lillian.

"Let's say you have a problem and you have no idea how to get rid of it, you dance it out," said dancer Luis Delcid.

Thanks to a $1.5 million raised by the Gabriella Axelrad Education Foundation and Pueblo Nuevo Development, new dance studios have just opened in this troubled community.

"I do tap, I do modern, hip-hop, ballet and I'm in the company kids, and it's really fun being in this foundation," said dancer Anainary Contrera.

The studios are exposing up to 400 children of all ages to dance.

"They each own a little piece of my dance spirit within me. And it's nice to give back," said dance teacher Chippy Zuniga.

"[I like dancing] because they do all those movements and they follow the rhythm of the song," said dancer Siclali Dominguez.

"I like that you can be free and you can express yourself," said dancer Kiersten McCall.

Liza Bercovici spearheaded the effort to bring dance here in memory of her 13-year-old daughter Gabriella, who was a dancer. Gabriella passed away nearly 10 years ago.

"It's like Gabri's spirit is still alive and I know that Gabri is an angel in heaven and she's looking down on these kids and I think she's smiling," said Bercovici, founder of the studio.

"It's giving me hope for something I never thought I could give my kid," said parent Nancy Gomez.


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