Orlando Ballet is in its 21st year of providing free ballet classes to low income inner-city children through the Scholarship Training for the Enrichment of Primary Students (STEPS) program, modeled after a similar award-winning program developed by New York’s Dance Theatre of Harlem. This year’s participants are currently being selected and will include more than 30 Orange County Public School 3rd grade students from Killarney and Lake Weston Elementary Schools and more than 25 Seminole County Public School2nd & 3rd grade students from Midway Elementary School. These students receive full tuition scholarships, leotards, tights, ballet slippers, and transportation to and from Orlando Ballet School for weekly dance classes. Students also receive complimentary tickets to a variety of Orlando Ballet and Orlando Ballet School performances.
Since its inception in 1992, more than 1000 inner-city children have received concentrated dance training through STEPS. The program’s creator, Barbara Riggins, (Orlando Ballet founder) fulfilled her dream of bringing dance to the most disadvantaged children in an intimate way. Ms. Riggins collaborated with Orange County Public School music teacher and Orlando Ballet accompanist, Jacqueline Compton to create an eight-month training program covering all the basics of classical dance study. Both Ms. Riggins and Ms. Compton remained actively involved with the STEPS program until their retirements in 2010.
STEPS is designed to inspire children to stay in school and possibly even discover a career path. From her experience with the program, one of our first graduates Tarsha Thomas went on to receive a full dance scholarship at the University of South Florida. If it was not for the STEPS program, this opportunity might have been missed. The program has been shown to limit the incidence of at-risk related behavior with academic schoolteachers reporting an 80% marked memory and behavioral improvement, 82% in motor skills, 85 % in academics, and 92% in self-esteem. Orlando Ballet School is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and its professional staff teaches STEPS participants in a structured syllabus that recognizes cognitive, emotional and physical development.
The STEPS program has been successful in large part because of the support it has received from corporations and agencies including Bank of America, Brighthouse Networks, Cirque du Soleil, the National Endowment for the Arts, Seminole County, and Walt Disney World.
Intro to Ballet
Orlando Ballet has presented an educational story ballet to every Orange County Public School (OCPS) second grade student for the past 15 years through its Intro to Ballet Program. Reaching approximately 16,000 students annually.
OCPS music teachers are provided with a lesson plan to prepare the students for both their first formal theatre experience and their first professional ballet. Orlando Ballet works in conjunction with OCPS to create works that are appealing and exciting to a 2nd grade student. Past titles have included story ballets like The Little Mermaid, Rumplestiltskin, Cinderella, and Peter and the Wolf. The ballets are 30 to 40 minutes in length and are preceded by a 10 to 15 minute interactive lecture demonstration.
All students participate in learning the basic feet and arm positions for classical ballet. The performances take place at Orlando’s premium classical arts theatre, the Bob Carr. Students are bussed to the theatre for the performance. Presenting the work at a professional theatre is mandatory as it enables the dancers to safely show their art form in the best possible way with a floor and space that enable them to best perform. Performers gain necessary stage experience while young audience members are exposed not only to classical ballet but a formal theatre experience learning audience skills for all the classical performing arts.
Modeled after the Boston Ballet program which began in 2002, Orlando Ballet School’s Adaptive Dance Program is designed to encourage children with Down Syndrome to express themselves creatively through music, movement and dance. Our 6 week pilot program launches on April 6th, 2013 at the Dr. Phillips location. Registration forms are available online, at all three school locations and through the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida (www.dsacf.org).
The Orlando Ballet School wishes to express special thanks to Annette Ford and Covelli Family, Ltd. for their generous gift to the program.
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