Going back to school is also the time to return to enriching activities that contribute to the growth and development of youth. A stellar example is Florene Nichols’ Inner City Children’s Touring Dance Company.
This year’s curriculum includes Children’s Ballet and Tap, ages 6 through 9; Youth Ballet, Modern and Tap, ages 10 through teens; Mommy & Me for Tiny Tots; Cre8tive Movement/Tap Combo, ages 2½-4; KinderDance Cre8tive Movement/Tap Combo, ages 4½-6; Cat Walk Kidz; Runway Modeling and Etiquette Tutorials, ages 5-teens. Registration for these classes continues Wednesday, Aug. 29, 6 p.m. for ages 21/2 to 9, and Thursday, Aug. 30, 6 p.m. for ages 10 thru teens at the Carrie P. Meek Senior and Cultural Center Dance Studio, 1350 NW 50th St. in Liberty City. For more information, call 305-758-1577 or write to email@example.com.
Who is Florene Litthcut Nichlos? She was born and grew up in the South End historic district of Boston. During the 1950s she was influenced by numerous black professionals. She fondly recalls the dance studio of Mildred Kennedy Braddock and child piano prodigy Philippa Schuyler.
Then a young American composer and pianist Schuyler wrote more that 100 musical works before the age of 13. She caught the attention of many of us, who looked up to her as an example of what a black child could achieve. I attended Schuyler’s Miami concert sponsored by Beta Tau Chapter, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority at the Mary Elizabeth Hotel in Overtown.
One of Nichols’ major influences was Elma Lewis, a Boston woman of Barbadian ancestry who established a school of fine arts for black youth. According to the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Lewis’ program emphasized character-building and multi-disciplinary arts instruction integrated through performance and exhibitions. Her vision and work commanded national respect as demonstrated by the honors she received, including a MacArthur Fellow and a national medal in the arts from President Ronald Reagan.
Florene Litthcut (Nichols) studied dance, music and drama at cultural institutions in Boston and Roxbury and graduated from Jeremiah E. Burke High School for Girls in 1960. Later she studied at Boston University, the University of Florida and Florida Memorial University.
In 1969, she joined the Atlantic City-based Larry Steele’s Smart Affairs Revue and travelled to Miami Beach to perform at The Eden Roc Hotel. An entertainment promoter, Steele was a “classy black man with a chorus line of beautiful black girls wearing glittering costumes with enormous feathers.” Steele’s act opened for top black entertainers such as Sammie Davis Jr., Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Count Basie.
After Steele’s show closed Nichols appeared at the Coconut Grove Playhouse with the road company of the Broadway musical Purlie and performed on the condo circuits with Frankie Kane Review, “A Tribute to Liza” and Cabaret.
With “sand in her shoes” Miami became her home. Nichols opened her first dance school in 1973 in Liberty City. A decade later she founded The Florene Litthcut Inner-City Children’s Touring Dance Company (ICCTDC), a non-profit organization that has received support from the city of Miami, Miami-Dade County, The Children’s Trust, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the United Way and donations.
Under Nichols’ leadership, ICCTDC has made appearances with artists such as Ben Vereen and Lou Rawls, performed for the Consul General of Nigeria, the NAACP, the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, the Super Bowl in Miami, and at The American Pavilion, Expo’92 in Seville, Spain.
Florene Nichols uses her talent, skills and years of experiences to help youth become productive citizens through the arts. Parents, grandparents and guardians have the opportunity to enroll their youth in the exciting program she has developed.