Highlighting Atlanta Ballet’s Community Engagement
As faculty, students and Company dancers return to the studios at the Michael C. Carlos Dance Centre and the Buckhead Centre for in-person classes, Jasmine Stevenson, the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education instructor for Hollis Innovation Academy, prepares to teach her students virtually from the Virginia-Highland Centre, where she teaches from 8:45am-1:30pm daily. Jasmine is one of eight Atlanta Ballet instructors within the Community Engagement program, led by Community Partnerships Director Diane Caroll Sales. Across the city, instructors are also hosted at Parklane Elementary and Utopian Academy for the Arts for daily virtual learning. While the Centre Dance program offers in-school dance instruction that is implemented within the curriculum, the after-school program provides access to dance education to both schools and organizations, which includes the Ron Clark Academy, City of Refuge and the West End Performing Arts Center.
In 2017, Atlanta Ballet’s Community Engagement expanded its reach outside of metro-Atlanta into Clayton County. After speaking at career day hosted by Martha E. Stilwell School of the Arts, Ms. Sales was approached by the school’s principal, Dr. Robinson, who expressed his appreciation for her show of support to a Clayton County School. “He expressed to me that few arts organizations in metro-Atlanta travel this far south for their students and that really broke my heart,” says Ms. Sales. This conversation helped establish a partnership between Martha E. Stilwell, Utopian Academy for the Arts, and North Clayton High School. In addition to in- and after-school programs, the Community Engagement high school partnership give students the opportunity to take Adult Open Division classes, and students and their families receive complimentary and discounted tickets to Atlanta Ballet performances.
Although the initial purpose of the Community Engagement program was to introduce dance as a kinesthetic learning style in effort to improve academic and behavior problems, many students have discovered a new love for the art form, particularly classical ballet. When a student shows a strong interest in ballet, they are offered a scholarship to enroll in Student Division classes and continue their training at the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education facilities. Through Atlanta Ballet’s Decades 2 Dance initiative, the goal is to identify students through the Community Engagement program who possess great potential and the desire to dance professionally at an early age so that they are provided with adequate training and resources to do so.
Through the generous support of corporate and individual donors, students are provided with the appropriate dance attire for class. In 2019, through a partnership and funding from the Coca-Cola Foundation, Atlanta Ballet was able to provide Hollis Innovation Academy with flooring to complete their dance room. It’s the difference between dancing in ballet slippers and on Marley rather than socks on concrete that helps enhance the overall dance experience for these students.
All Centre for Dance Education photos by Kim Kenney.