Joseph and business partner Lakai Worrell are the co-executive artistic directors and founders of Purelements An Evolution in Dance, a performing arts organization known for its dance company and arts outreach in East New York and other struggling Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Joseph and Worrell were promising dancers when they met at the ages of 11 and nine at an East New York community center in 1981. They struck up a lifelong friendship, and founded a dance company in Brooklyn in the mid-1990’s.
Joseph said the venture highlighted a lack of performance arts education in inner-city schools, and pushed the pair to return to their roots.
“We felt a new need to [return] to East New York,” Joseph said. The neighborhood had improved over the ensuring decades, he said, “but in terms of performance arts enrichment it didn’t really exist.”
Joseph and Worrell changed that in 2006 by launching Purelements.
The non-profit organization is based in Bedford-Stuyvesant, but works in a dozen public schools across East New York, Brownsville and Bushwick through an in-school and after-school arts enrichment program known as Project AIRE.
Purelements also runs a performing arts class for aspiring dancers interested in West African, Hip-Hop, Ballet and other dance forms out of the Waverly School for the Arts in Brownsville.
In addition, Purelements runs a professional dance company that has performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and other local venues, and around the world. But it’s the work in city schools that is most inspiring, said Joseph, who estimated his organization serves roughly 2,000 students per month.
Dance is a creative outlet that can make a difference in children’s lives, Joseph and Worrell being the prime examples.
“If you didn’t get trapped by the community you would leave and not come back,” Joseph said of his childhood in East New York. “We chose to come back home and put knowledge into the community.”
Purelements will celebrate its fifth-year anniversary at the Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts in Downtown Brooklyn May 14-15, 2011. For more information visit their website.