CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) – For many, getting a chance to dance with others seems far-fetched, especially in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Charlottesville Ballet is working to make that possible, and is now being awarded for its efforts to bring free classes to people across the area.
Emily Hartka with Charlottesville Ballet is one of the people behind “Chance to Dance,” a free dance program offered to elementary students in Charlottesville City Schools.
More than 250 students have had the opportunity to take a free dance class during their school day through the program.
“It’s not about doing a perfect plie, or how to do a perfect jazz square or salsa, it’s really about that discipline, that community connection, getting to work one on one with your peers and build something together,” Harka said. “Some kids say, when they come to my classroom, ‘I don’t dance Miss Emily.’ And then we have kids at the end of the program that are shining.”
The program offers dozens of students free lifetime scholarships to Charlottesville Ballet. Hartka says the free opportunity helps close the gaps between families who are able to afford classes in-studio, and those who cannot.
Teachers like Teri Stepe, a music teacher at Burnley-Moran Elementary School, says free dance classes offered during the school day provide a crucial change of pace.
“Being able to be together again and being able to access movement, creativity and expression in different ways, outside the classroom, is so important to the health and wellbeing of our students,” Stipe said.
It’s not just students getting the opportunity to dance for free: Charlottesville Ballet also hosts adaptive dance classes for students who are differently-abled, as well as for individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.
The ballet group recently received $10,000 from Dominion Energy’s ArtStars award program.
“Some of our individual programs, like the Movement for Parkinson’s Disease is about $10,000 a year with faculty and rooms and places to hold these class. For Chance Dance, just lifetime scholarships assigned to is about $18,000 a year, that we’re just giving in kind to these students,” Hartka said.
That money Charlottesville Ballet received will be used to go toward the free programs and scholarships from now until June 2023.
Copyright 2022 WVIR. All rights reserved.
Do you have a story idea? Send us your news tip here.