As is common across all forms of the arts, research points to potent benefits in dance. Those benefits range from mental health — studies have shown that regular dancing can reduce the cognitive decline that sometimes comes with advance age, as well as boosting serotonin production — to educational benefits. Several studies suggest that dancing can improve our ability to learn new things. That aligns with ArtsWave's Blueprint for Collective Action for the Arts Sector, which names Fueling Creativity and Learning as a major positive outcome from investment in the arts.
That's why ArtsWave supports arts organizations around the region who focus on dance. Many of these groups are well known, but what might not be as clear are the intentional programs many arts organizations have in place to take advantage of the many benefits of dance. Cincinnati Ballet, for example, has an ever-evolving program called CincyDance!
CincyDance! reaches over 1,900 students from more than 30 schools, providing them with dance classes and life skills. By exposing children from a wide range of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds to dance, they provide the chance to learn both the discipline and the joy of dance in a safe, structured and supportive environment. Students who show an interest and affinity can advance to an additional, free, 20-week Ballet Foundations Class. At that class' conclusion, five students are selected for a lifetime scholarship to Cincinnati Ballet's Otto M. Budig Academy.
"It is imperative that we create pathways for students of all abilities and backgrounds to express themselves through dance," says Cincinnati Ballet Director of Education & Community Engagement Carolyn Guido Clifford. "By giving them the resource, we will slowly start to see the changes happen on stage."
David Choate, Founding Director of Revolution Dance Theatre, noticed several years ago that the last time he'd seen a truly diverse ballet class was during his time at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. He sought to change that by building an intentionally inclusive space for both professional and pre-professional dancers, to provide new opportunities in our region. The resulting program, known as #BlackBrownandBallet, connects diverse students of ballet with one another and with professionals for master classes, performance opportunities, travel and more.
In 2019, Choate and the Revolution Dance Theatre team have been laying the groundwork for a big expansion of #BlackBrownandBallet. While the program served as the organization's only major concert at the Aronoff Center in 2018, RDT is now a resident company at the Aronoff and will be returning for a full season of three performances in 2020. "The plan is for #BlackBrownandBallet to be a movement intentionally driving higher engagement of African Americans in the ballet art form," says Choate. "Expansion plans include the revival of a full academy for more students from beginning to pre-professional to engage in classes."
Bi-Okoto, the African drum and dance organization, has fitness and education programs that they bring to schools. Bi-Okoto’s E Sin Mi D'Afrika (Come follow Me to Afrika) residency program addresses student needs over the course of a nine-month program by implementing an integrated arts teacher training curriculum. The program addresses the needs of children who attend underperforming inner-city public schools where they often struggle in areas of academics and social interaction.
All around Greater Cincinnati, arts organizations like these are using the power of dance to guide future generations to success. ArtsWave is proud of what’s being done and pleased to be able to support these programs through gifts made throughout the community. With each student reached, the future of our region looks a little brighter.