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Underprivileged Fort Worth Kids Learning Ballet

By Melissa Newton, CBS 11 News
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(credit: contemporaryballetdallas.com)

(credit: contemporaryballetdallas.com)

FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - It is a chance to dance.

A unique program in Fort Worth is giving some underprivileged children the chance to learn a valuable skill.

At Carroll Peak Elementary School in East Fort Worth, Tachenique Burnett spends her afternoon pursuing her passion.

“I wanted to go to ballet since I was three years old,” said the fifth grader, who has never taken dance lessons until this year. “Now I want to grow up and become a ballet teacher.”

Burnett is one of 60 students participating in F.I.N.D., which stands for “Find and Inspire New Dancers.”

The F.I.N.D. Program is offered through Fort Worth’s Ballet Concerto and the Margo Dean School of Ballet.

“We come once a week and we teach ballet lessons for an hour,” said Program Director Nancy Jones.  “These children would probably never have the opportunity to take dance lessons somewhere else, and there are plenty of talented children out there that deserve an opportunity to dance.”

“What I like about dancing is the jumps, because they’re easy,” said fifth grader Lashondra Edwards.  “I learned the steps, and like, flexibility how to stretch before we do our dances.”

“The hardest part is the splits,” added Casandra Edwards, who is also in fifth grade. “The thing I like is the jumps, and I’ve learned that every time you do something you make sure your toes are pointed.”

“When I’m in ballet they teach us new things that we haven’t done,” said fifth grader Nijah Peters, who enjoys ballet but wants to pursue gymnastics. “They inspire us to do more and more.”

Professional ballerina Caradee Kline teaches the lessons throughout the school year at Carroll Peak, Como Montessori and Delores Huerta Elementary. The three schools are in primarily low-income neighborhoods.

“Many of these kids have never danced at all,” Jones said, “they’d never seen a ballet shoe or taken a class, and it’s amazing how much they’ve learned this year.”

The program was established in 1998 and is funded entirely by private donations.
Students who excel at ballet are given a scholarship to continue taking dance lessons at Margo Dean School of Ballet.

F.I.N.D actually found one professional ballet dancer.  Fort Worth native Brandon Ngyuen first discovered his talent through the program when he was just nine years old.

“He was in the fifth grade and we brought him to Margo’s studio and he danced there for several years,” Jones said, “and he went to the Houston Ballet, and then the Orlando Ballet and now the Atlanta Ballet, and he’s a professional dancer now.”

While Tachenique many want to follow in his footsteps, Jones said whether the students pursue dance beyond the program, it’s giving them the inspiration to reach for their dreams.

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