Some of the highlights of the program for me were the standing ovations, the tears in Debra’s eyes, the girls who gathered around her to take photos and get autographs and Debra’s daughter who took a moment to thank me for honoring her mother. There were lots of questions from little girls and their mothers about how to become a professional ballerina.
After the event, Ricky Weiss, Artistic Director of the Carolina Ballet expressed excitement about the number of children who were interested in becoming dancers. We discussed a program for African American children that he tried to start several years ago. I thought that a good first step would be to provide families with information about how to become a ballet dancer. There are so many children already studying ballet and we might be able to help them take it to the next level.
Two years ago, I met Martita and Therron Williams. Their daughter, Leslie is a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company. They provided me with background about how they helped their daughter achieve success. I reached out to them as well as Carmen Felder, an African American ballerina at the Carolina Ballet. Everyone including Carmen's parents agreed to participate in our event.
One of the registrations that I received was from a 17 year old boy named Cameron. I called his mother and apparently in middle school he decided to start studying dance. He had only taken classes in public school. His mother sent me a tape of him dancing and he is amazing! I reached out to the Raleigh School of Ballet and they agreed to provide him with a scholarship. He is going to take 7 classes a week and they said that after a year he should be able to get a dance scholarship for college or become a professional dancer.
We hadn’t even had the program yet and already had an amazing story! It was really wonderful. I didn't think it could get any better.
We presented This is Ballet! Becoming a Professional Dancer on August 27. It included a panel discussion with the parents as well as a dance performance by the professional ballerina who also led workshops for experienced and beginning dancers. Although I shared information about how to audition for the Carolina Ballet's The Nutcracker, I thought it was a long shot. Over 100 children try out each year. One of our girls auditioned and guess what? She was selected to perform in Sleepy Hollow which they are presenting in October. She was also given one the coveted roles of “Party Girl” and “Gingerbread” in the Nutcracker. And by the way, guess what her name is? Kameron.
We are too excited about this wonderful experience. We hope to develop a ballet program to encourage more African American children to become ballet dancers.
Isn’t that quite a story? And I mean really . . . Cameron & Kameron!