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Dance program helps Florida’s inner city youth sashay toward college

“Dance: The Next Generation” is a 10-year program that not only teaches ballet, but gives students the discipline and confidence to succeed in school — along with a big opportunity waiting for those who complete the program successfully. Video produced by Jack Conely, Kristine Kelly and Farah Britto of WEDU.

For 22 years, the Sarasota Ballet has sponsored an after school program designed to transform the lives of inner city school children. “Dance — The Next Generation” enrolls 100 students who have been identified as “at risk” of dropping out of school. The students — ranging in age from 8 to 18 — study classical ballet, but the lessons learned are much broader.

Dance teaches self-confidence, discipline and control, says instructor Lisa Townsend. “If you’ve got your body in control, your mind is also in control.”

Kris Powell says DNG gave him the tools to succeed and become the man he is today.

Dance: The Next Generation“I was a troubled child. I had no discipline and got kicked out of elementary school,” explains Powell. DNG helped him get back on track and ultimately paid for four years of college.

Free college tuition at the State College of Florida and the University of South Florida is offered to any student who sticks with the program and maintains good grades. Powell is now a public school teacher and instructor with DNG. He says he loves teaching the young boys, to show them that dance isn’t just for girls.

“In America, there’s a stigma attached to dance and I like to break that mold,” he says.

Local Beat is a weekly series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

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