Sharing the struggles and celebrating the triumphs of being African American in the ballet world and beyond.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Cost Of Pursuing A Dream

Photo Paul D. Van Hoy II

Though previous efforts have been made to expose inner city youths to ballet, I’ve often wondered what happens after they fall in love. How can these bright eyed children from difficult backgrounds possibly afford the costs associated with this patrician art form. The weekly purchase of point shoes alone stresses even middle class families finance.

As a child, I scarcely understood the sacrifice my family made so that I can pursue a ballet career. Classes, shoes and attire not only meant tremendous financial commitment from my parents lower middle class budget, but from my siblings as well, who would sometimes have to forego certain ambitions due to the family’s strained resources. Despite the burden a simple costume fee placed on my family’s finances, I still managed to attend ballet classes five to six times per week, purchases of dozens of pointe shoes a year along with a drawer full of tights and leotards. Reflecting on all the costs, it’s no wonder why ballet is rarely pursued by the underprivileged. Without support from scholarships, the tireless efforts of my parents to find resources for me and the sacrifice of my siblings, I would have never been able to pursue my passion. It is truly heartbreaking to think that there is some little girl out there dancing in her living room, dreaming of tutus and tiaras, who may never get the opportunity to pursue her dreams because she lacks the means.

While discussing this difficult and very personal issue with a friend, I was referred to a website for the City of Angels Ballet, Los Angeles, which has the mission of helping underprivileged children actually pursue their dreams of becoming ballet dancers. The website describes the Academy and its mission as follows:

Since it's inception in 1993, the City of Angels Ballet has offered hope, inspiration and opportunity, in the form of classical ballet training, to hundreds of talented children from some of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. At this not-for-profit, selective ballet academy, boys and girls, aged 8 to 18 receive formal instruction and dancewear at no cost to their families. Our dancers reflect the diverse ethnic mix that makes up this city, and most qualify for the Federal Free lunch program at their public schools.

Founder and Artistic Director, Mario Nugara has a lovely quote on the website:

"My dream was to create a ballet company and academy reflective of our wonderul diverse city that utilizes the untapped talent existing in every community in Los Angeles. The City of Angels Ballet is well on its way to making this dream come true!"

Underprivileged communities are filled with untapped talent. As a child I remember attending small talent contests in my neighborhood and being blown away at some of the talent that would surface. I was too young to understand just how fortunate and blessed I was to be given an opportunity to explore my talent by my parents and others who believed and invested in me. Far too many, far too often are not so lucky.

I applaud Mr. Nugara for realizing this need and choosing to take action. What a wonderful gift he is giving to these children and their communities. Through the respect and discipline learned at the academy, students are receiving praises from school teachers and impacts are being felt in their families and communities. Wouldn't it be wonderful if such opportunities could be granted to all underprivileged communities? How many children go down the wrong path because of lack of direction, inspiration or hope. Mr. Nugara is giving these children more than ballet training, he is giving them hope!