BWW Featured Studio: BALLET TECH
Ballet Tech is a unique partnership between the Ballet Tech Foundation, Inc. and the New York City Department of Education. Here students beginning in grade 4 have the opportunity to combine professional tuition-free arts instruction with a public school education. With approximately 180 students enrolled, Ballet Tech is dedicated to introducing children of NYC to the beauty and rigor of classical dance, while producing a new generation of dancers whose diversity reflects the full-spectrum of the American community.
In 1974 Eliot Feld founded a professional dance company known as Feld Ballet. One day while riding in a subway car, Mr. Feld was surrounded by a class of joyful and carefree elementary school students. It was then he was inspired to bring dance to NYC public school children who are traditionally deprived of rigorous training that can help them realize their talent for classical dance. Eventually, Mr. Feld received permission from the Department of Education (then the Board of Education), to audition children in grades 3-5 across the city to participate in a school-time release program. This allowed students to be bused to his studio located at 890 Broadway (the same building at the renowned American Ballet Theatre) for introductory ballet classes beginning in 1978 at what was originally called the New Ballet School. As the program grew, it became its own independent certified NYC public school, the New York City Public School for Dance. In the 1990s, Feld folded his company and in 1994 started Kids Dance, a pre-professional company. The school and Kids Dance together are called Ballet Tech.
Ballet Tech has auditioned over 800,000 students across all five boroughs and has served and enrolled over 20,000 students. Alumni have gone on to perform with some of the country's top dance companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Martha Graham Dance Company, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and American Ballet Theatre. Some have gone on to be on Broadway, while others have gone on to continue their education at leading universities across the country.
Ballet Tech believes that children learn best when in a supportive and positive environment that encourages discussion and critical thinking. Students are uniquely challenged to meet the rigors of academic and classical dance training. In the Lower School (grades 4-5) and the Middle School (grades 6-8), students take academic classes in English Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Mathematics, Visual Art, and Spanish in addition to dance classes in ballet technique, modern, pointe, tap, West African, and stretch. Ballet Tech also partners with the Professional Performing Arts School to provide high school students (grades 9-12) an academically challenging curriculum while they continue in Ballet Tech's advance pre-professional program.
In addition to the school, each year Ballet Tech auditions approximately 30,000 students at 200 elementary schools to participate in the Introduction to Ballet program. This is a 6-week intensive where selected students are bused from their elementary schools, one morning a week, and are introduced to the fundamentals of ballet. Students learn basic ballet steps, vocabulary, class structure, and discipline while being provided with proper dance attire. Although students are not required to have any prior dance training, the children are evaluated on their potential to excel in classical dance.
Kids Dance, Ballet Tech's student performance group, provides students with the opportunity to learn choreography and performance skills that are essential to the development of a professional dancer. Each year, Mr. Feld commissions guest choreographers, to work with the students for their annual performance at The Joyce Theater in June.
What I love about this school is that it combines rigorous dance training with a challenging academic public school education. It offers an opportunity to NYC children who may not otherwise have access to high quality classical dance training. I also appreciate that the school provides students with complete and proper dance attire. I don't think it is a secret that dance outfits and shoes can become a costly expense, particularly for low-income families.
I am a strong believer that students can succeed if they are given the opportunity and the proper resources. Ballet Tech is a perfect example of that. I commend Mr. Feld for being instrumental in providing such amazing opportunities for the past 30-plus years! Thank you for your commitment to dance and serving the youth.
For more information about Ballet Tech and how to audition children at the studio as well as how principals and administrators can set up auditions at NYC schools, please visit the website at www.ballettech.org.
Photo Credit: Joe Ray