By Jerrika Swartz
You don't have to be a dancer to appreciate the art of dancing. If it's barefoot in your kitchen or on a stage with thousands watching, you're expressing yourself by moving rhythmically to music. It's all dance! Some of us are destined to dance and some can even make a career out of it. However, some of us don't have that chance to dance. That's where one of SHARE Charlotte's nonprofit partners, Charlotte Youth Ballet, comes in! Their mission is to educate, empower and entertain by giving kids in 2nd through 12th grade the chance to dance in professional-level performances.
Lasting Impressions, one of Charlotte Youth Ballet's outreach programs, specifically touches the lives of 3rd and 4th graders at Ashley Park Elementary. "Some of these kids wouldn't be exposed to dance without Charlotte Youth Ballet," Laura Wallace, the executive administrator of Charlotte Youth Ballet, said. These kids don't have the means to take dance for different reasons. Maybe family finances just won't allow dance lessons. Maybe their parents work late or their family doesn't have a vehicle to get them to and from dance practice. "We reach a lot of kids who wouldn't otherwise see ballet," Wallace said. Lasting Impressions allows those kids to boogie for free!
Bethany Williamson is a former student at Charlotte Youth Ballet and now serves as a dance instructor with Lasting Impressions. "Those kids are so talented it's not even funny," Williamson said. She's involved now as a teacher to not only show these kids what they can do but to show Charlotte what these kids are capable of when given the opportunity. "It makes ballet obtainable for them and not just some big dream."
Instead of just showcasing professional dancers, Charlotte Youth Ballet makes sure the Queen City sees kids aspiring to be a pro one day. "We show Charlotte that these kids can do this. We don't have professionals just perform," Williamson said. "It's to say, 'Hey, look at what these kids can do!'"
While Williamson is teaching kids how to move and groove, they end up learning life lessons in the process. "Sometimes life isn't fun or easy even for kids, so it's nice to see them smile and forget about everything else and focus on something they want to do," Williamson said. However, don't be fooled. The students are teaching the dance instructors a thing or two as well. "It's about being a part of a kid's life and changing it for the better. It's the kids."
Jerrika Swartz is a former TV news reporter turned nonprofit advocate.