Simply Destined for Downtown
On the second-floor of the Fox Island Apartments (the historic Leland Tower), dancing is transforming young lives and giving some local youth a reason to live.
Martin Luna is pretty straight-forward about the reasons why he offers free dance classes to at risk youth. Luna, who turns 31 in August, wants kids to have a place to come and express themselves. He doesn’t want them to end up pregnant, in gangs, or dead.
“They just want a place to dance. It’s free. There is no catch,” said Luna, who started Simply Destinee almost two years ago after his niece committed suicide at age 16 in May 2010. The non-profit dance studio is named after his niece.
“Destinee was a very motivated, loving, and talented inspiration to us all. Her love of music has inspired us to turn our tragedy into triumph,” says a promotional postcard that Luna hands out for Simply Destinee.
Luna started the non-profit with six students in a building on Highland Avenue and then later moved to Fox Island Apartments on the corner of Stolp Avenue and Galena Boulevard in downtown Aurora.
“Downtown is where I want to be,” said Luna, who has recently been exploring other options for locations in downtown after new owners, Karademas Enterprise, purchased the building last spring.
Luna said they recently started to expand into the second half of the second-floor location when the new owners approached him with the opportunity to tour various locations in downtown that might be more suitable for his needs.
Currently, Luna serves about 30 to 45 students on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday when the Simply Destinee dance team meets for practice. He said a move might serve him well since he doesn’t have a storefront at the current location. However, Luna appreciates the wonderful architecture, high ceilings, and affordable rent at Fox Island Apartments.
Luna said the students have helped him fix up the walls with fresh paint and they feel ownership over the space. He admits that it would be hard to move, but he is open to it. At this point, Luna is mostly challenged by funding needs. A recent crowd funding campaign netted only $120.
“I’m looking for someone to do a video,” Luna said. He added that a video could show what they are doing – and the smiling faces could be worth a thousand words.
Luna, who picked up dancing from his mom, teaches private dance classes when the dance team isn’t occupying the studio. The focus is mostly Latin and hip-hop. He said the dance team incorporates many styles, as well as social dances like the popular “The Wobble,” and “The Cupid.”
It’s more than dance, though. Luna said that they reach out to local organizations and churches. “We do as much as we can do for them,” he said.
Currently, the Simply Destinee dance team performs locally at parades, festivals, and dance expos. The studio will be open from 7 to 10 p.m. on Aug. 1 for First Fridays in Downtown Aurora.
To donate to Simply Destinee, visit the studio at 7 S. Stolp Ave., stop by PNC Bank, or reach out to Luna directly at (630) 643-6001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inspired by Martin Luna? Want to help? Whether Luna stays or leaves his current location, he will need help with supplies and the labor involved in renovating a space. Luna promotes Simply Destinee through a Facebook page and postcards. If you can help Luna with a website, a video, or a crowd-funding campaign, then contact Luna at (630) 643-6001 or (630) 486-1997.