Ballet Chicago’s Dance for Tomorrow program worth celebrating on National Dance Day

SHARE Ballet Chicago’s Dance for Tomorrow program worth celebrating on National Dance Day

This year’s National Dance Day is slated for Saturday, July 26. And a celebration of Ballet Chicago’s “Dance for Tomorrow” program — which takes state foster care, adoption, subsidized guardianship and others who are under-served under its wing with tuition-free professional dance training — might be one good way to pay homage.

Rehearsals are now underway for Ballet Chicago’s showcase performance of its Summer Intensive Session at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., near the South Side’s Washington

Park, with a performance set for tonight (June 24) at 7 p.m. Featured will be 125 dance students ranging in age from nine to 18. They represent all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds and are drawn from all across America, with a ratio of about 40 percent from Chicago and 60 percent from other states.

In 1996, Ballet Chicago was approached to be a service provider for what eventually became Statewide Opportunities for Arts and Recreation(SOAR), a program of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Through SOAR, Ballet Chicago provided up to 75 students annually with tuition-free ballet instruction. The SOAR students were integrated into the student body and experienced the benefits of arts enrichment. The program continued without interruption until the 2012-2013 school

year.

In August of 2012, the State of Illinois unexpectedly ended the program. Nevertheless, Ballet Chicago continued on its own and absorbed the costs — a yearly average of $60,000. When the State

discontinued the SOAR program, Ballet Chicago immediately felt the loss, but maintained roughly 40 students who were already enrolled.

The company will be unable to sustain the Dance for Tomorrow program long-term without outside support. Philip and Marsha Dowd, who established a Merit Scholarship Program for Ballet Chicago in 2002, will now match any donations, dollar-for-dollar, up to $45,000. (To make a donation to the Dance for Tomorrow program, visit http://www.balletchicago.org and click on the “Support Us” menu button.)

As a side note, First Lady Michelle Obama recently launched “Let’s Move,” an anti-childhood obesity campaign. The public-private venture, which is teaming up with Nike, has invested $50 million, to be given out in grants to schools and before-and after-school programs that promote physical fitness. Schools can apply by going to http://www.letsmoveschools.org. Ballet Chicago, founded in 1988 by Daniel Duell and Patricia Blair (both professional dancers/choreographers who trained under the renowned choreographer George Balanchine at the New York City Ballet), will be applying for a “Let’s Move” grant to support its after-school dance instruction programs for school-age children.

Ballet Chicago produces the second-longest-running production of the holiday classic, “The Nutcracker,” in Chicago, running this year on Dec. 13, 14, 19 and 20 at the Athenaeum Theatre.

One final note: National Dance Day was created by “So You Think You Can Dance” producer Nigel Lythgoe, and takes place in the United States on the last Saturday in July.

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