Com­mu­nity pro­gram brings ballet to the home­less

Vocable (All English) - - La Une - SARAH NAGEM

Some as­pects of dance are very elit­ist, be it ballet, jazz, mod­ern or ball­room. Find­ing a school near home, buy­ing the cor­rect ap­parel and shoes, time to com­mit etc. In Durham, North Carolina, a com­pany has taken the ini­tia­tive to of­fer cour­ses in a shel­ter for the home­less and the kids are lov­ing it!

DURHAM, N.C. — About 18 girls and boys put on new ballet shoes and mir­rored an in­struc­tor’s move­ments. They turned out their feet to demi-plié — down, onetwo, up, three-four — and they pointed their toes in tendu. Many of the chil­dren, who live with their moth­ers at Durham Res­cue Mis­sion’s home­less shel­ter, had never seen a ballet per­for­mance or tried the moves them­selves. But last

month, they got free ballet slip­pers and a dance les­son from mem­bers of the Cary Ballet Com­pany as part of a new com­mu­nity-out­reach pro­gram that hopes to bring the art of dance to women’s shel­ters through­out the area.

2. “I’ve al­ways wanted to get my daugh­ter into dance,” said Tia Har­ris, 29, who has been stay­ing at the Good Sa­mar­i­tan Inn shel­ter through Durham Res­cue Mis­sion for more than a year. Her 4-year-old daugh­ter, Zimora, ex­cit­edly twirled around the room dur­ing the event at the shel­ter. “She loves dance, she loves mu­sic,” Har­ris said.


3. The event, which fea­tured a chore­ographed per­for­mance for the moms, marked the launch of Plié All Day. The Cary Ballet Com­pany, a non­profit per­for­mance group of the Cary Ballet Con­ser­va­tory, started the pro­gram as a way to help the un­der-served com­mu­nity, said de­vel­op­ment co­or­di­na­tor Michelle Gisondi. “It’s a part of our core be­liefs and val­ues,” Gisondi said.

4. Ballet classes are of­ten too ex­pen­sive for fam­i­lies strug­gling to pay the bills or get back on their feet. It costs about $80 a month for a 5-year-old to take a weekly class at Cary Ballet, Gisondi said. The num­bers are more stag­ger­ing for se­ri­ous dancers. Web­site FiveThir­tyEight cal­cu­lated that it costs about $120,000 over 15 years to train a pro­fes­sional dancer who gets started at age 3.

5. Ballet has been crit­i­cized for its lack of di­ver­sity, at­tract­ing and fea­tur­ing mostly white dancers. In 2015, Misty Copeland be­came the first African-Amer­i­can dancer to be­come a prin­ci­pal dancer for Amer­i­can Ballet Theatre.

6. Many kids, par­tic­u­larly mi­nori­ties, never get to ex­pe­ri­ence the joy of per­form­ing on stage or to gain the valu­able lessons dance classes can teach — dis­ci­pline, team­work, risk-tak­ing. “It’s very com­mu­nity-build­ing and fam­ily-build­ing,” Gisondi said. “There’s a lot of fail­ing and try­ing again.”


7. “You get in the stu­dio and you’re danc­ing, and you for­get about all the trou­bles in the world,” said Ad­di­son Spey, 18, a mem­ber of the Cary Ballet Com­pany. “It’s a way to kind of let go.” Spey, who has been danc­ing since she was 9, leaves Cary High School at 10:20 a.m. every day so she can train for 30 to 40 hours a week. She plans to take part in an in­ten­sive sum­mer pro­gram with the At­lanta Ballet af­ter high school grad­u­a­tion.

8. Last month, Spey per­formed in pointe shoes to show the kids how ballet dancers go all the way up on their toes. She said she was happy to “spread the love of dance.” So was Ari­anna Arnold, 13, also a mem­ber of the Cary Ballet. “It’s a re­ally great ex­pe­ri­ence know­ing I’ve been blessed to be part of this, help­ing some­one who might not be as priv­i­leged as I am,” she said.

9. Roke­lia Brown, 37, said her 6-year-old daugh­ter, Amira, was thrilled when she found out about the ballet les­son. Once the fam­ily moves out of the shel­ter, Brown said, maybe Amira can en­roll in a class. “Right now it’s just not an op­tion,” she said.


10. It’s good for the kids at Durham Res­cue Mis­sion to be ex­posed to new ac­tiv­i­ties, said Carol Al­corn, di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion at the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is also a bonus, she said, be­cause they spend a lot of time watch­ing TV. “A lot of them never would have done any­thing like this,” Al­corn said. “This is great to have them up and run­ning — and bounc­ing.”

11. Joia Ubia, 9, said she took some ballet classes when her fam­ily lived in Ari­zona. Now she’s stay­ing at the shel­ter. “I like that you learn dif­fer­ent moves and you learn how to be a bal­le­rina,” Joia said. Eight-year-old Jor­dan Chefney, who had never done ballet be­fore Thurs­day, said the ex­pe­ri­ence was “awe­some.” “I want to prac­tice more,” he said.

(Ethan Hy­man/Raleigh News & Ob­server/ TNS)

Zimora Palmer, 4, holds onto the hand of Ad­di­son Spey, with the Cary Ballet Com­pany, dur­ing Plie All Day, an out­reach pro­gram that hopes to bring dance to women's shel­ters through­out the Tri­an­gle.

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