Eartha Kitt’s KITTSVILLE YOUTH FOUNDATION DANCE & CULTURAL ARTS PROGRAM was initially started as a response to the utter frustration, desolation, hopelessness, and anger that remained after the 1965 Watts Riots that took place in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.
At that point in time, Eartha Kitt had traveled the world, mentored youth in New York and Washington, D.C. and realized that she could have a profound impact on youth struggling to realize their full potential. Thus, that same year, wanting to share her knowledge and love of dance, Ms. Kitt met with members of the Watts community and made the decision to start a free dance program in a small gymnasium.
Being profoundly influenced by Katherine Dunham, the noted African-American anthropologist, choreographer, social activist and teacher, Ms. Kitt understood that dance has cultural connections that should be embraced and valued. She also understood that dance is an invaluable tool for developing discipline, focus, self esteem, pride, and dignity, therefore all children should have access.
She initially served as the primary teacher and, until her passing, returned periodically to teach and greatly encouraged the participating youth, their parents, and Kittsville staff.
Quickly outgrowing this initial location, the program relocated to Jordan Downs Recreation Center, still in Watts, and additional teachers and staff were recruited to build a cultural arts program that included dance, music, theatre, and visual arts.
Since its creation in 1965, the program has been housed at various recreation centers and LAUSD schools throughout the metropolitan Los Angeles area. In addition, it has kept its no-fee structure for all students of school age.