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VOL. 126 | NO. 177 | Monday, September 12, 2011

Jeremy Park

Diversity Project for Cultural Arts

By Jeremy Park

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Last week we exemplified how one person or company can start a movement by taking action with small steps to impact our community. This week let us spotlight an organization that is bringing together children from all backgrounds by providing a professional standard of training, regardless of the ability to pay: New Ballet Ensemble & School.

We discussed it in previous columns, but one necessity for a vibrant city is a rich cultural arts community. Some of my most prized memories within the last year are cultural experiences, like sitting on stage while Mei Ann Chen conducted a rehearsal for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, watching a private performance of “Being Here” with Ballet Memphis and seeing the Memphis Symphony team with the Dixon Gallery & Gardens for their Symphony in the Gardens. (The next Symphony in the Gardens is Sunday, Sept. 25. Visit www.dixon.org for information.) This collaborative atmosphere, where our world-class cultural arts organizations are working together, is unique to Memphis and something we should hold with pride.

New Ballet Ensemble is another example of how Memphis is charting a new course for cultural arts. Established in 2002, the school sprang from founder Katie Smythe’s vision to offer children from various socio-economic and racial backgrounds the benefits of ballet training on the level that was traditionally reserved for those who could afford the best. Its mission is to provide opportunity for all with the core beliefs that children from different backgrounds can and should enrich each other’s lives, arts education should address the whole child, all students should dance regardless of their ability to pay, and dance training opens pathways to college.

By leveraging contributions to underwrite scholarships and training, New Ballet Ensemble is realizing impressive success. Graduates have attended or are currently attending universities such as NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Boston Conservatory, and the Universities of Arizona, Georgia, and Oklahoma – all in dance majors or minors. Graduates have been featured on MTV, “So You Think You Can Dance,” and the “Today Show,” to name a few. The school’s favorite statistic, though, is that 40 percent of its student body is from minority groups and more than 25 percent of its students in the Core program are on scholarships.

New Ballet Ensemble is representing our nation Monday, Sept. 12, for Interdependence Day 2011. There are celebrations in 16 cities across the globe from New York to Melbourne, Australia. The events highlight the importance of global interdependence and how each country is intertwined for success. New Ballet Ensemble’s performance from the National Civil Rights Museum will be simulcast around the world Monday via the 3-Legged Dog Art and Technology Center near Ground Zero in New York. For more information, follow NBE on Facebook by searching for “New Ballet Ensemble and School.”

Learn more about New Ballet Ensemble by visiting www.newballet.org or contacting Katie Smythe at katie@newballet.org or 726-9225.

Jeremy Park, director of communications at Lipscomb Pitts Insurance and director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, can be reached at jeremyp@lpinsurance.com.

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