CincyDance! returns for the third year to Washington Park at noon May 18, when Cincinnati Ballet brings more than 1,000 third-graders out for an interactive dance performance. 

Spearheaded by Julie Sunderland, Cincinnati Ballet's director of education, the performance, emceed by Bob Herzog of Local 12, is an extension of fall program that serves under-served and at-risk students in Cincinnati schools. Sunderland and her team teach the kids original choreography and plan the spring performance to keep them engaged all year long. 

CincyDance! in Washington Park also lets anyone get involved. All the choreography is online, and Sunderland would love to have community members  bring lunch and dance with the kids at noon. 

Sunderland took time to talk more with ArtsWave about CincyDance! and how it plants the seed for future dance audiences and performers. 

AW: Who participates in CincyDance!? 
JS: More than 1,000 third graders are involved this year and with chaperones and teachers it’s 1,645 people, not including volunteers and audience. 

AW: How do the kids learn the dance? 
JS: We go into the participating schools four times, and we’re there for 30 to 50 minutes to go over the dance. The kids are sweating and having a blast. It’s a great way to introduce physical activity in a new way than what they’re used to. Whenever you’re doing a healthy activity like dancing, it gets your spirit moving and your soul excited, and kids want to do it over and over again. It’s a great feeling. There are moments for their own creativity to come out in the dance, too. 

AW: What’s the general feedback from the kids involved? 
JS: They love it. It gets them excited to learn. They feel like, they’re dancing with kids from all over the city, but they’re all the same when they dance together in Washington Park. I would say 70 percent of the kids have never even been to the park. On a bigger level, they are — and they feel like they are — representing Cincinnati as a whole. coming together and creating this moment and being part of this whole community movement? They’re so proud of that. 

That moment when everybody takes that first position, you can see that they’re taking pride in themselves and their schools and this event. One of the greatest thingsabout CincyDance! is that it blows their mind about what ballet is and isn’t and that they can do it – that this art form becomes you and they think, “I was a part of that!”