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Charlotte Ballet Scholarship Program Celebrates 10 Years

Reach connects students to professional dance choreographers that teach high-level courses twice a week. (Photo by Peter Zay)

In light of Donald Trump’s disturbing call for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts in his administration’s proposed 2020 budget, it’s comforting to know there are still organizations — especially in Charlotte — that believe in accessibility to arts and humanities.

Charlotte Ballet is one of these organizations. Through its Reach scholarship program, the organization makes art and dance accessible to students who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity.

“The Reach program brings the same quality dance training and curriculum provided by Charlotte Ballet Academy into our local communities,” said Bianca Bonner, director of education and community engagement with Charlotte Ballet. “In addition to accessibility, Reach also promotes self-esteem, discipline and an appreciation for the arts.”

Students dancing at a past Reach performance. (Photo by Jeff Cravotta)

Now in its 10th year, the Charlotte Ballet’s Reach program provides scholarships and dance performance lessons at county recreation centers across the city. The program launched in 2009 from a grant funded through the Women’s Impact Fund and has since served 1,000 students with professional-level training from choreographers like Peter Chu, who worked with Charlotte Ballet’s professional dancers in January; Misty Copeland, the first African-American woman to perform as a principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history; and top-tier dance company Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

For this year’s celebration of a decade of Reach, the two student performances at thePatricia McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance on May 5 will include a ceremonial letter written by the office of mayor Vi Lyles to be read before the performances at both 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

It’s critical for organizations like Charlotte Ballet to bring art accessibility to the community, especially since public school arts funding is cut from middle- and lower-income schools.

“Accessibility to the arts is a topic of conversation for cities nationwide,” said Doug Singleton, executive director of Charlotte Ballet. “At Charlotte Ballet, we feel it is necessary to continue serving our community by providing quality programming and instruction at a time when public arts funding is in danger.”

In the past 10 years, Reach has provided more than recreational dance training to students across the city. The program boasts a number of graduated students who went on to complete higher levels of dance training at Charlotte Ballet or joined dance companies within the organization.

Charlotte isn’t known for its vibrant dance scene, but with programs like Reach that cultivate young and aspiring dancers, the city is making headway, and that’s important in an era when the federal government sees zero value in the arts. 


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