The art of dance is alive and well with youth in downtown Chattanooga thanks to the collaborative efforts of Ballet Tennessee, Allied Arts, The Tennessee Arts Commission and the city of Chattanooga.
Dance Alive, a free two-week, auditioned program that gives children ages 8 to 12 an opportunity to study dance and perform onstage alongside professional-level dancers, is celebrating its 17th year with a record number of participants.
"This year we've got an especially great group of kids who are really pro-dance and really excited about the program," said Ballet Tennessee Executive Director Barry VanCura.
With 57 children from 13 different community centers across Chattanooga participating, "The Colors of Dance" is an apt name for the performance Dance Alive participants will provide in conjunction with Ballet Tennessee's Youth and Summer Intensives Friday, July 27 at the Roland Hayes Concert Hall. Through the wide variety of ethnicities, ages, abilities and dance styles all coming together onstage that evening at 6 p.m., audience members are sure to see the entire spectrum of dance.
"This performance really shows dance from beginners all the way up to the professional levels of dance," said Ballet Tennessee Associate Director Laurel Shastri. "During this year's Summer Intensive the upper-level dancers have been studying partnering, variations and other styles of dance like jazz and contemporary. It's always neat to see that after the Dance Alive presentation, because it shows the progression of dance and what is available to these participants."
At the end of the program, Ballet Tennessee will present several Talent Identification Program scholarships to Dance Alive participants that will enable them to continue the progression they began this summer.
"T.I.P. is a way for Dance Alive children who have shown the desire, motivation, talent and financial need to continue studying dance at the conservatory," said Shastri. "Scholarship recipients will be integrated into after-school and weekend classes based on their level and will also have the opportunity to perform in Ballet Tennessee performances and the spring recital."
For some Dance Alive participants, turning dance into a career after the program may seem like a stretch, but Ballet Tennessee has several prominent success stories. This summer alone, current Dance Alive participants have the opportunity to work with former program participants Frederick Davis, who now dances professionally in New York with the Dance Theater of Harlem, and Brittany Johnson Mills, who is a Ballet Tennessee faculty member.
Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Public Relations Director Brian Smith said he is particularly proud of Dance Alive and the impact it has made on local children.
"This is a great partnership we've enjoyed having for years," he said. "On our end, we're extremely proud of the opportunity for local talent that might not be recognized otherwise and we hope to continue to partner with this program, because it's a program that's proven it works."
Although not every child will become a professional dancer after experiencing Dance Alive, VanCura said he sees the program's legacy all the time when he runs into former participants.
"Every time we go through the program we teach kids what to look for in dance," he said. "Even if they don't continue with the art form they will always be some of our best audience members. These young dancers are part of our community and we hope to touch them in some way, even if they don't continue participating in dance."
For more information about Ballet Tennessee or the VanCura Ballet Conservatory call 821-2156 or visit www.ballettennesse.org.