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Thursday, May 9, 2019 12:01 am

Springfield Youth Performance Group instills a love of the performing arts

Students from SYPG traveled to Chicago for a master class with the Joffrey Ballet.
Photo courtesy Sypg


The Springfield Youth Performance Group (SYPG) is enriching the lives of children through the performing arts.  The nonprofit is dedicated to nurturing the artistic spirit within each child.  SYPG works toward this purpose by targeting excellence in stage performances, arts education and youth-centered programming facilitated by professional artists.    

“If all the world’s a stage, SYPG puts children in the spotlight,” said Caitlin Helton Scherer, SYPG’s artistic director.  “Since 2005, SYPG has been encouraging and cultivating the artistic talents of youth in our community by giving them the opportunity to perform on stage with other children. The experience of performing in a large-scale production is significant and one every child should be given the chance to learn from and enjoy. Every child has a unique gift, and SYPG offers youth ages seven years and older in central Illinois the chance to explore and enhance their own talents.”

Dancers ages seven to 13 who take technique class from any dance studio in central Illinois are eligible to participate.

“Besides giving our dancers extra opportunities to perform on a stage,” Helton Scherer continued, “we are also teaching them to be appreciators of the arts and teaching them what it means to give back to our community.  A lot of thought and care is put into making sure each child feels confident both on stage and off.  The skills we master in the studio are skills that are applicable in many other areas of life: self-discipline, respect for peers as well as themselves, the ability to learn quickly and retain information, and how to work in group settings.  You have to be brave to put yourself out there in a performing arts setting.  From the audition to the rehearsal process to the performance, dancers are learning how to take risks in a safe and supportive environment and learning that it’s okay to make mistakes.”

Helton Scherer added that the group is proud to have a welcoming environment for its dancers and their families and often sees multiple dancers from the same family performing with it over the years.  

SYPG holds open auditions for two main stage performances twice a year.  The three performances of the June 8 production of “The Little Mermaid” follows a week-long camp in which the cast of nearly 70 dancers learn and master the choreography of the show and participate in enrichment activities and field trips.

“While it takes a lot of hard work to put on the types of productions we do,” said Helton Scherer, “we streamline rehearsals as much as possible to take into account school schedules, siblings and other responsibilities that our dancers may have.  The environment within the studio is focused on learning choreography and performing it to the best of our abilities, but we also have a lot of fun while doing it.”

In addition to its main stage performances, SYPG performs frequently throughout the community.  Members have performed with Illinois Symphony Orchestra for their annual Holiday Pops in the Heartland performances for many years and also partner with Downtown Springfield Inc.  

Taryn Grant, SYPG executive director and head of SYPG Foundation activities, added, “Our goal with SYPG is not only to put arts in our performers’ hearts forever but demonstrate how the performing arts can be an outlet for community service.”

Three outreach programs are part of community service.  Mighty Movers is a gross motor skills program for children with developmental delays.  SYPG has partnered with Hope School and The Autism Clinic at Hope, and Grant teaches students of all ages there weekly. The Smile Company of SYPG alumni partners with HSHS St. John’s Hospital, bringing beloved fairy tale princesses and child-friendly characters to visit children in need of a smile due to a medical condition.  Books on Stage blends literary arts with performing arts by bringing a book’s main character to life.  This program targets schools affected by library budget constraints and public libraries. A home-schooled family lends talents to this effort.

“Nothing is more important to our organization than giving back to the community that gives us so much,” said Scherer.

Parents can find out more information by liking SYPG on Facebook, following on Instagram (@sypg_dance) or emailing sypg@comcast.net. 


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