The ABT RISE Weekend Was a Success!

12 May

The semester had the upcoming ABT RISE weekend looming over it. Constantly, we were left wondering (hoping, really) if it would be successful. In late February/early March, we got to work. We began keeping track of all the students that were applying for the weekend. It was here where we hit a wall; it was great that students were applying, but most of the students applying were from New York. 

The goal of the ABT RISE weekend was to give typically underrepresented students in ballet an opportunity to learn from great teachers for a weekend at no charge. So we had to come up with a plan to reach a broader pool of students; our goal became to secure one applicant from each state. This meant meetings with the marketing department, meetings about equity and inclusion, and planning social media posts. For me and one of my fellow interns, this meant reaching out to Boys and Girls Clubs across the country in the hopes of finding new and eager dancers. 

Cold-calls and spreadsheets owned my first two weeks of March! I was worried about calling the clubs at first, but I ended up having great conversations with directors who left the call more interested in ABT and ballet in general. Not sure how many students we acquired from the calls, but ABT definitely developed relationships with many of those clubs and it was awesome to be a part of that.

Finally the weekend arrives. The zoom meeting opens and we are immediately flooded with tons of kids, dressed in their dance clothes and eager to start the weekend. The kids started their day with a ballet class, then repertory, and they ended the dance portion of their day with a modern dance class. Watching the students blossom over the course of the day was an amazing thing to witness. One student said at the end of the ballet class, “I was really nervous to come today but, after this class, I’m so excited for the rest of the weekend!” (Oh, that sound you hear? It’s just hearts breaking everywhere.) 

The weekend ended with reflection from the students. They talked about how excited they were to continue their dance training and gushed about how fun the weekend was. I was so happy I got to be a part of what seemed to be a formative experience for most of the kids.

This experience really showed me the kind of company ABT is. I admire how they go out of their way to make ballet accessible. Dance in general can be really inaccessible, so a major dance company like the American Ballet Theatre crafting an entire weekend dedicated to students that might have difficulty taking a dance class, is incredibly honorable. It signals to me that I chose the right place to intern and I am excited to see ABT’s future equity and inclusion projects.

Kelsey Shelton

Education Intern

Spring 2021

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