Flying home from performing at a women’s prison in Texas, Linda Wade envisioned a youth dance program to help her community’s children find an outlet. On the plane, Wade decided on a name for her program: Above the Clouds.
Housed within the Holton Youth and Family Center on Milwaukee’s north side, the Above the Clouds art program provides children with the opportunity to engage in artistic endeavors in the form of free classes.
“What I love about Above the Clouds is that they’re engaging kids in their community who might not have the opportunity to do ballet,” said Milwaukee Ballet Director of Engagement Alyson Chavez.
“A lot of our children are inner-city Milwaukee children that couldn’t afford to take our classes,” said Wade. “A lot of single families, a lot of grandparents raising their children.”
As a child, Wade herself dreamed of dancing but a heart condition limited her physical abilities.
“I’ve always wanted to dance and do ballet, but as a child and always being sick, I never had the strength,” said Wade. “Plus my parents couldn’t afford it.”
Years later, inspired by a church dance performance and with encouragement from a fellow churchgoer, Wade began taking dance classes. Eventually she was invited to join a gospel dance company. With the missionary group Discipleship Unlimited, Wade got the opportunity to perform for female inmates at a Texas prison.
“They always love it when dancers come and to feel their energy,” said Wade. “The music is always uplifting.”
In connecting with the prisoners, Wade discovered for a lot of the inmates, childhood troubles often contributed to a life that lead to prison. For Wade, establishing Above the Clouds and providing the same uplifting spirit to the youth of her own community was an effort to help young people lead a positive life.
“Arts gives you an outlet,” said Wade. “It lets you dream. It lets you escape for a moment. You can get lost in that medium of dance.”
Wade’s mission of providing for her community creates a positive impact. Just as Wade was inspired through dance, Above the Clouds exists to inspire others.
“Nothing can limit you,” said Wade. “If you can dream it, you can do it.”