Moving America Forward

Thanks to This Program, Inner-City Children Are Dancing

May 14, 2014
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Thanks to This Program, Inner-City Children Are Dancing
Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images
A ballet instructor takes it upon herself to offer affordable ballet classes.

While most kids bust a move with games like Just Dance on their Wii Fit, Chanda Ford-White is giving children another option for getting physical.

Ford-White runs the Cleveland Inner City Ballet, a classical dance program that serves underprivileged and economically disadvantaged youth. Classes, which are held at the Collinwood Recreation Center and the First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland in Shaker Heights, expose children to the music of Tchaikovsky, as well as the French language (think: plié, rond de jambe, arabesque).

Initially, the dance classes were part of a city-funded program called the Hough Dance School with Ford-White teaching them. She later resigned her position and opened the Inner City Ballet in order to better serve underprivileged students whose families can’t afford pricey ballet instruction. The program holds classes in a couple of locations so they can maximize the number of children exposed to the world of classical ballet.

Although dancing may appear to simply be an amusing extracurricular activity, consistent practice of the rigorous discipline can have a drastic impact on students: A 2000 study from The University of Connecticut found that ballet significantly impacted at-risk children.  The creativity and discipline of dance spilled over into other areas of the students’ lives and contributed to the development of “psychologically healthy” adults.

Students of the Cleveland Inner City Ballet are expected to attend class on time, wearing proper attire. Their accomplishments are put on display during recitals, such as their holiday performance of “The Nutcracker”, which also acted as a fundraiser.  Financial support comes from the contributions of students, private donors, Ford-White’s personal funding, and performance ticket sales. The company was most recently featured in February on WVIS PBS’s local network show Applause as part of Black History Month.

One of its star students, 11-year-old Demetrius Lee told Cleveland.com that he believes ballet “would build my strength and knowledge of different cultures”, but adds that it has merits on its own. “I just like to dance, and it’s fun.”

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