By Len Lear
If we had more adults in the city like Lydia Robinson and her dance instructors, we’d have a lot fewer kids getting into trouble. Lydia, 31, has a full-time job with the Hotel, Restaurant, Travel and Tourism Academies, 1401 Walnut St., which works with city high schools trying to interest students in careers in the travel and tourism industries. But she also somehow finds the time to run SNAPCo., an organization she founded five years ago to make a difference in the lives of young ladies via dance.
Her young women, who perform at community events throughout the city, were seen entertaining the crowd on Saturday morning, Dec. 10, at the Chestnut Hill Community Holiday Parade. “Those girls are absolutely wonderful,” said Christine Taylor, of Wyndmoor, who was there with her two children. “It is obvious that the adults who work with these girls are totally dedicated.”
Robinson, who grew up in the Belfield area of East Germantown, moved to West Mt. Airy as a teenager but attended the faraway Center For Economics and Law Charter High School in Southwest Philadelphia. To get to and from school, she “took two buses, trains, planes, taxi cabs. LOL!” (She should have gotten frequent flyer miles.)
Why did Lydia start SNAPCo. (Scene-N-Action Productions Company, a 501C3 nonprofit performing arts and community outreach organization) in 2012? “It was always a dream to start my own performing arts program as a young girl,” she said. “I endured many health obstacles starting at age 13. Coming in and out of Children’s Hospital as a patient, I saw so many children suffering with various ailments and diseases. I could only remember how sad they were. I knew that there were many children suffering both physically and mentally all over the world.
“Dance and theater became my outlet. So I started the organization to offer to the many children like me who needed a creative outlet and to also use their gifts to impact and touch others. We created the SNAPCo. Experience program, which allows our SNAPCo. members to also participate in community outreach. We have performed and instructed workshops at family shelters, community events and soon children’s hospitals. Our motto is ‘Touching HeARTS through Performing Arts.’”
There are currently 28 SNAPCo. members ranging in age from 4 to 13. Most of the children live in the surrounding neighborhood where the program is run out of Finley Recreation Center in East Mt. Airy. However, there are also members from East Oak Lane, West Oak Lane, Elkins Park, Chestnut Hill and even West Philadelphia. Most of the girls attend public or charter schools.
Lydia has no children of her own but is “a proud aunt of three nieces (two of whom are members of SNAPCo.) and two nephews., She participated in her first dance program at Ivy Leaf Middle School in West Oak Lane (now defunct) under the direction of Mrs. Cheryl Jenkins at age 11. She was a dance minor at Indiana University of PA, and she taught “Praise Dance” at Pointe Flex Dance Studio in Germantown under the direction of Yvette Solomon for three years. And she currently teaches ballet/jazz with SNAPCo. and the “Praise Dance” ministry at Bethel Deliverance Church in Northeast Philly.
(“Praise Dance” is a series of dance video games developed by Christian video game developer Digital Praise, with a particular emphasis on Contemporary Christian music. The series’ first title, “Dance Praise,” was released in September, 2005.)
The SNAPCo. Girls have performed at Stenton Family Manor, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Dance Showcase, TBM Cares Inc. Toy Drive, Simons Recreation Center’s Black History Program, “A Heart for the Arts;” Venice Island Performing Arts Center, Finley Recreation Center and the Chestnut Hill Community Holiday Parade for the last two years.
SNAPCo. advertises and recruits through their social media pages on Facebook and Twitter (SNAPCo Inc), their website and by informational displays at community events, i.e. Back 2 School Drives. The staff and board members also go out into the community to hand out flyers and talk to neighborhood parents.
Five instructors teach the dance routines: Keya Middleton: Mime & Creative Movement (ages 8-13);
Alicia Jeremiah: Theater and Creative Movement (ages 8-13); Brittish Davis: Hip Hop, African and Step Dance (ages 8-13); and Domonique Jolly: Ballet & Jazz (ages 4-7).
“Our staff not only provides their artistic expertise,” said Lydia, “but they continue to instill the importance of self-love and respect for one another. After every class, all participants gather to say our mantra created by one of our staff members, which is ‘I LOVE myself; I LOVE my neighbor because I AM Loved (looking to heaven).’ Our biggest lesson to be taught is LOVE!”
One parent, Lamar Gillam, of a SNAPCo. Member, told us, “My daughter Abigail’s experience has been great. Abby enjoys learning all of the new dances, and she enjoys the social interaction with the other girls. Abby’s love for SNAPCo. inspired her sister Alexis to join. Alexis also said she enjoys learning the new dances and interacting with the other girls. More importantly, they feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.”
Tamiika Brown, another parent, said, “Our experience with SNAPCo. has been one of extreme positivity. Miss Lydia and her team are like family to us. Both of my daughters have positive role models who are about community as well as bringing the art of dance to the youth.”
Yolanda Booker, a grandparent, added, “Where do I begin? SNAPCo. is a true blessing to our children and community. My granddaughter Zaniyah Green has been a part of this wonderful organization for the past three years. The children not only learn dance techniques; they also learn that they are beautiful and to be confident in who they are. The wonderful founder, Lydia Robinson, and her staff are amazing. They are supportive in every way. I love every part of SNAPCo.”
More information at www.snapcompany.org or firstname.lastname@example.org