Editor’s note: On Friday afternoon, Texas Ballet Theater cancelled all remaining performances of “The Nutcracker” because of COVID-19.

As the curtain closes on the year, two Fort Worth ISD seventh-graders are stepping onto the stage at Bass Performance Hall.

Kennedy Crymes, 12, and Karen Martinez, 13, are featured as members of the Nutcracker ensemble alongside the Texas Ballet Theater’s company dancers. 

Both are alumni of the Texas Ballet Theater’s CityDance program, which started in 2004 to make dance more accessible to students in Dallas-Fort Worth.

This fall, the program served 26 different schools throughout the metroplex and reaches about 1,100 students a year.

Texas Ballet Theater School sends their faculty to elementary schools across the metroplex to teach a five-week introductory ballet course to students. (Courtesy photo | Jiyan Dai, Texas Ballet Theater)

Bringing dance instructors into schools saves parents the headache of coordinating carpools or battling traffic, and it offers students an active after-school program where they can burn off some of their excess energy.

Vanessa Logan is the executive director of Texas Ballet Theater, and hopes the organization can garner funding to someday expand the CityDance program beyond five weeks and to offer the lessons to even more schools.

A woman smiles for a headshot in front of a purple background
Vanessa Logan is the executive director of Texas Ballet Theater. (Courtesy photo | Texas Ballet Theater)

For Logan, the CityDance program is an important piece of the company’s diversity, equity, access and inclusion efforts. Like many other arts organizations, they’re thinking critically about where they’re offering auditions, the way they handle their marketing and how they fit into the larger cultural landscape in Dallas-Fort Worth.

“I’m proud of the work that we’ve done. I’m proud of everybody owning and acknowledging how much we have to learn, and being open to other folks coming in to have these conversations with us,” Logan said.  

Depending on the level of instruction and frequency of classes, private lessons can cost parents anywhere between $65-300 per month, but, through grants and private donations, CityDance offers five weeks of introductory ballet lessons for free.

A woman smiles for a headshot
Yvonne Leffel is administrative director of schools at Texas Ballet Theater. (Courtesy photo | Texas Ballet Theater)

“I think what’s great about the program, it’s really kind of bringing art to them,” Yvonne Leffel, the administrative director of schools at Texas Ballet Theater, said. “Some of these children may not have been able to experience it, but I’d say about 85 percent of our schools are Title I schools. These are really great opportunities for them to be able to kind of receive this art education.” 

Crymes, one of the middle school dancers, hopes to become a company dancer someday, but that isn’t the only outcome that the Texas Ballet Theater considers a success.

“There are many different paths that a ballet introduction can create,” Logan said, noting that Karen and Kennedy exemplify her dreams for the program. “It gave them a desire to study ballet. It could also give you the dedication and focus element in preparing for your studies or whatever athletic sport you might want to do. And it could also just make you into a ballet lover where you’re advocating and supporting the art later on and say, `I remember I took that class when,’ you know?” 

If you go:

Remaining performances
2 and 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 23
2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 24
2 p .m. Sunday, Dec. 26

Run time: Two hours (including a 20-minute intermission)

Covid policy: Masks are required for everyone and guests should present either proof of vaccination or show a negative test within 72 hours of the event. More details
here.

Tickets: https://texasballettheater.org/performance/nutcracker-2021/

For both young women, their favorite part of performing is just before they’re about to go onto the stage.

“It’s like a thrill when you’re about to go on,” Crymes explained. “Not like a couple minutes before, but when you’re about to do your counts to go on, it’s just like a rush of adrenaline.”

Martinez describes herself as shy, but loves that dance gives her the opportunity to tell a story without speaking.

For other students who are on the fence about participating in dance but might also feel intimidated, she describes what she’s gained from the program.

“It gets a little frustrating trying to do a turn if I can’t do it.” Martinez continues, “But I think that’s going to help me in the future to keep trying, never give up and just keep working hard.”

Martinez isn’t sure what her ultimate career path will be, but that mindset gives her several options.

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at marcheta.fornoff@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Marcheta Fornoff

For just over seven years Marcheta Fornoff performed the high wire act of producing a live morning news program on Minnesota Public Radio. She led a small, but nimble team to cover everything from politics...

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