CINCINNATI, Ohio - Music fills the air as 9-year-old Kamarii ties her ballet shoes. It's graduation day, time for these little dancers to show what they've learned. Here each plié and toe point is considered extraordinary, and so is each child.
"I feel like a celebrity or something," said Kamarii.
"I'm really good and I'm kind of like, a really talented girl," said eight-year-old Heidi.
Ballet Foundations is a special 20-week class that builds confidence and life-skills in third graders. It's directed by Julie Sunderland with the Cincinnati Ballet.
"The hopes are that they learn a plié and tendu, but also that they really learn how to stand up nice and tall, shoulders down and back, eye contact, thank you, please, Miss and Mister," explained Julie Sunderland, Director of Education and Outreach at the Cincinnati Ballet. "So we're about teaching respect and teaching how to dance."
Students come from all economic backgrounds, chosen during outreach programs at their schools. Tuition is free and so is their dance attire.
"It's a way of bringing people together in this city that I don't know exists in another way and learning from each other," said Sunderland.
Through the joy of dance children learn creativity, flexibility, and balance. They learn to believe in themselves and what they can accomplish.
Sunderland added, "We're working on your self-esteem, how to carry yourself in the world."
Yet another benefit of ballet is academics. According to the National Dance Education Organization, students with high involvement in the arts perform better on standardized tests.
By the way, this scholarship program, called CincyDance, is modeled after a Boston Ballet program called CityDance. Many other city ballet companies also offer demonstrations or classes to help expose children to the art of dance.
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