Dance Force to be honored Saturday

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A dance company that represents students from across the Chicago area is getting a lot of attention. And it's not just about their moves. (WLS)

A dance company that represents students from across the Chicago area is getting a lot of attention. And it's not just about their moves.

Dance Force won first place in the 2015 Bud Billiken Parade dance team category.

They are show-stoppers for sure. A dance company that represents students from 40 different Chicago schools. Together they are an award-winning team of young people, who bring pride to everything they do.

Four nights a week, kids ages 4-17 from all across the city gather at in a Wrightwood neighborhood dance studio to practice what they call their passion and their family.

"It's not just a dance group it's a family," said Jeanettie Merchant, Dance Force head captain. "We do everything together, we all are one."

Dance Force has been around for more than a decade. They beat out hundreds of others and by being named best dance group in last year's Bud Billiken parade.

"Because of the energy that they have, their commitment not only to dancing but also to all their activity," said Marc Stengstacke, executive director of Chicago Defender Charities.

The parade has long symbolized the return to school and has sent a message of peace, which is something the group takes seriously.

"Make sure that homework is being done," said Kentrele Schipp, Dance Force program director. "The whole nine yards... if you want to dance then you got do good in school."

"Us as children, we need to get out of the street," said Keenan Coleman, Dance Force boys captain. "Dance is positive."

Artistic Director Matthew Thomas runs a tight ship, but he welcomes all children of all abilities.

"We've seen them grow, go through puberty," said Thomas. "And learn and get better and start off with two left feet."

And he's also taught them about leadership.

"I lead by example. I tell everyone when they're wrong. I make sure everyone is doing what they're supposed to be doing, including myself," said Taylor Williams, Dance Force co-captain.

"Dance Force is a good team, we get a long sometimes, play around, and then we get right back to work," said Jakayha Seals, Baby Force captain.

Members say they plan on keeping their number one title for a while.

"We hold our heads high of what we can do and what we are capable of doing," Merchant said. "When we compete, we know that we've been working hard and what to do to prepare for it."

On Saturday, the students who make up Dance Force will be honored for their year of hard work. They will be receiving some very special awards and they'll be showing off some of the moves that got them that first place title in the parade. Also, there will be a sneak-peek at some of their new work, plus multiple productions and special guests.

It all happens at Lindbloom High School on Wolcott. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the show starts at 6. Our own Jim Rose will be hosting it all.

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