A critical element of The Washington Ballet’s (TWB) mission is to actively engage the city of Washington and its surrounding communities. TWB’s community engagement programs and initiatives are designed to connect children and adults of all ages to the art form and to bring the joy of dance into their lives.
Since the launching of TWB’s Community Engagement program 15 years ago, the Ballet has reached almost 70,000 students, many of whom previously had little or no access to the arts. The Ballet’s in-school arts program, DanceDC, has expanded its reach since finding a home at THEARC in Ward 8 and now serves five wards in the city. The EXCEL! Scholarship is a one year award that brings talented youth from District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) to The Washington School of Ballet. The Ballet also serves the communities of southeast DC through its performances at THEARC, which attract significant local audiences. These productions include The Nutcracker in the winter and performances by TWB’s Studio Company in the spring.
In 2005, the Ballet partnered with other community and arts organizations through the auspices of Building Bridges Across the River to open the Town Hall Education Arts and Recreation Campus (THEARC), a joint-use facility located in the heart of Ward 8. THEARC is of great historical and cultural significance to the city of Washington in its ability to deliver high-quality programs and services in arts, health, recreation and human services to residents living east of the Anacostia River. It is also home to the only professional theater in Southeast Washington DC.
As one of THEARC’s founding members, TWSB has established a second campus at THEARC, including two state-of-the-art studios and headquarters for the entire TWB community engagement program. This campus, the SE campus, offers two multi-level courses of ballet training, known as the Intensive and Community Tracks, which allow TWSB to serve students with a broad range of ability and experience. The Intensive Track provides rigorous pre-professional training to students with exceptional talent and commitment, while the Community Track offers the opportunity for classical ballet training to students who have less experience or who wish to pursue dance recreationally.
Since 1999, The Washington Ballet has endeavored to reach underserved areas of the DC community through DanceDC, a celebrated education and outreach initiative that has served tens of thousands of DC Public School students. This unique program combines creative movement with an integrated language arts curriculum. All program material is created in compliance with DC Public School (DCPS) Standards, the National Standards for Dance Education, and Howard Gardner’s Multiple-Intelligence Theory.
Today, DanceDC classes are taught at eight different locations throughout the city, reaching more than 600 students each year. Classes are taught on-site at JO Wilson, Orr, Septima Clark Public Charter School, and Turner Elementary Schools in Southeast DC; Bruce-Monroe, John Eaton Elementary Schools, and Sitar Arts Center in Northwest DC., and Smothers Elementary School in Northeast DC.
All DanceDC classes are taught in accordance with the TWSB syllabus by TWSB master educators and reach a diverse population of District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) students. Currently, 68 percent of DanceDC students are African-American, 23.4 percent are Hispanic, 6.2 percent are Caucasian, and 1.4 percent is Asian. More than 70 percent live at or below the poverty level.
The goal of the DanceDC program is to enable students to:
• Study the principles of dance, specifically ballet, and gain an appreciation for the arts
• Engage in a programming that supports DCPS efforts to improve reading test scores, vocabulary comprehension, and creative thinking
• Learn teamwork through cooperative learning and the arts
• Develop a greater sense of self-esteem, confidence, and discipline