transcenDance program continues helping local children

transcenDance has been serving local children in low income communities for more than 15 years.
(Kevin Walsh)

Since 2017, Carmel Valley resident Arlene Yang has been working with local children through the transcenDANCE Youth Arts Project.

The program, which has a facility in Lemon Grove, specifically focuses on dance lessons and other performing arts for teens in underserved communities.

“Earlier in my career, when I was living in New York, I had taken a break from practicing law and I had worked with a lot of nonprofit performing arts groups as a fundraiser, development director,” said Yang, a principal in the labor and employment practice group and the chair of the Diversity Committee at Meyers Nave. “Then when I came to San Diego, I was interested in getting involved with the performing arts again, and I heard about this opportunity through a listserv, and I met the people and joined the board back in 2017.”

transcenDance began in 2005, according to its website, and recruited students from low-income communities who were at a higher risk for homelessness, crime and other challenges. By 2006-07, the teen performance group was taking the stage almost 50 times per year at schools, conferences and other events, and 10 years later the program received its first major performance contract awarded through the San Diego International Airport.

Students who participate in transcenDance learn how to build resilience, confidence, and creativity through leadership, collaboration, community engagement and other skills.

“It is also very important for them to have an opportunity to perform,” Yang said. “So every year they have a big performance on a professional stage with all the lighting and the music and everything, and it’s wonderful. Even more amazing is what’s happening to them when they’re working with the teaching artists and staff over the course of a year.”

Seeing her children go through the local schools, including Canyon Crest Academy, Yang said she realized how many other schools throughout the region don’t have the same level of resources and staffing.

“Some of these other schools don’t have the same resources, so I thought it was important to make these types of opportunities available for more children,” she said.

Yang added that many children participate through high school and go off to college. Some come back to contribute to the program.

“They continue to have a bond with the organization and they come back year after year, helping the next generation of students,” Yang said. “It’s really wonderful to see.”

The transcenDance Youth Arts Project facility is located at 7755 North Ave. in Lemon Grove. For more information, visit