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UNRAVELING THE BUN

New dance program celebrates diversity amongst youth

| lenise@yesweekly.com

Getting ready for dance class was a chaotic adventure for my mom and I. I took lessons two days a week after school at the Greensboro Cultural Center until I was 15. It was my job to change into my pink tights and burgundy leotard, usually in the back seat of my mom’s Chrysler because I hadn’t changed in the school bathroom. It was my mom’s job to hastily tie my hair back in a tight bun wrapped in a hairnet.

I loved dance. It made me fit, flexible, strong and graceful. It also made me self-conscious and I remember the day I quit. The day I told my mom I didn’t want to wear those revealing leotards anymore. I was embarrassed of my wider hips and big thighs.

Thankfully Triad youth, both boys and girls, dreaming of becoming a ballerina can take their passion to a new ballet program coming to Winston-Salem. Edge Performing Arts, a new community ballet and performing arts program, celebrates diversity and welcomes dancers of all body types, with different backgrounds and from different studios.

“Body image is at the forefront of the dance world,” said co-founder Christy Hambright- Carter. “There was a time when you couldn’t even think about being a ballerina unless you were super, super thin, six-feet tall and had a perfect body.

“Our goal is to let these dancers know that if you’re great at what you do, if you’re driven to do what you want to do, anything is possible.

“If you have a dream of being a dancer, it’s not thrown away just because you don’t fit a certain stereotype.”

One of the program’s founding principles is the importance to teach dancers self-confidence alongside diverse dance techniques, providing them with “the knowledge and confidence they need to be successful.”

The program is aimed at those who have a more serious and focused desire to learn and succeed at a career in dance; however, all experience levels are welcome. Classes are for students in grades 2-12 and include such focuses as leaps and flexibility, turns, hip-hop ballet, contemporary dance and pointe just to name a few.

The staff is just as impressive as the welcoming, myth-busting principles. Christy and her sister and co-founder, Cathy-Lee Hambright-Ward, have trained dancers who went on to Alvin Ailey, The Julliard School, The Royal New Zealand Ballet and Joffrey Ballet; some even work commercially in Los Angeles and New York.

The staff itself is world-renowned, including Christine Spizzo, Sam Shapiro, Kevin Cosculluela, Sara Havener, Allie Parsons, Sam Jones and Drew Davis—whose combined experience and expertise includes: performing with Mikhail Baryshnikov, being quoted as one of the foremost experts in pointe in the country, performing and dancing with American Ballet Theatre and The Royal New Zealand Ballet, performing in the New York Radio City Music Hall Nutcracker, and training and performing with the Joffrey Ballet.

Christy adds that the staff’s diverse background is also helpful for answering questions that students may have about particular careers or companies.

“Several (of the staff) have been instrumental in developing the program and schedules because they have experienced first hand so many aspects of the dance world,” Christy said. “Their input was essential in making sure we developed a program that was giving the kids the most we could give them.”

Havener, who began dancing at the age of three, is actually a Winston-Salem native and received her high school diploma from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

In fact, the founders themselves grew up in Winston-Salem too, and even run two dance studios in Winston-Salem and Kernersville. Of course, their proximity wasn’t the only reason they chose Winston-Salem for the new program.

“Dance is an outlet, a way for kids to express themselves, and there’s a need for more options in (the Triad’s) dance world,” said Cathy-Lee, a dancer herself.

“You never know when you’re going to touch somebody or change their life and that’s the rewarding part of this,” Christy added, as she lamented giving a scholarship to a girl from the Boys and Girls Club and later learning how much it improved her self-confidence and body image.

And it’s that passion and sentiment that makes me want to plié again. !

WANNA go?

Early auditions for Edge Performing Arts, opening at 5047 Country Club Road, Winston Salem, are July 26, followed by an open house and a second chance at auditions on August 23. For more information on registration, class schedules, auditions and pricing, visit www.edgeperformingarts.net or call 768-3303.

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