lighthouse rehearses with ballet

Ballet slippers and a lot of practice have turned third and fourth graders into flowers, butterflies and bunnies ready for their stage debut.

Since December, members of the Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet have worked with LightHouse students from Westwood Elementary preparing them for the March 8 performance of “The Secret Garden.”

“You get to dance and you get to have fun,” 9-year-old Kaya said.

For years LightHouse Coordinator Wendy Garcia had wanted to include dance or music for her students. At the same time, the ballet also hoped to expand its reach to children who would not have a chance to take private lessons.

Last fall, the two organizations and grants from Willis-Knighton Health System, the Beaird Foundation, and the Grayson Foundation all connected.

Garcia recruited the students and had to tell them – and sometimes their parents – that ballet is more than tutus.

“They’re going to stretch and work on agility and gain a sense of self confidence,” she said.

In addition to the lessons, the program also provided shoes and members of the ballet donated leotards for the girls.

During a recent rehearsal, they eagerly lined up for their shoes, listened intently, and mostly remembered their routines. As they practiced the finale big grins stretched across the practice space.

Rory, an 11-year-old who loves to dance, said she was not sure what to expect, especially when instructors started rattling off French terms and walking them through the disciplined movements. But she said it has been better than expected. Two weeks from the big performance and she was starting to get nervous.

“We’ll be performing in front of a lot of people,” she said.

All of the students have shown improvement in attendance and behavior after taking ballet, Garcia said. Kate Pedrotty, executive director of the ballet, has also been impressed with the students and trusts they’ll do a great job.

“We hope that they will know that they have used their own talents to create something beautiful, and that they have worked as a group to do it,” she said.

See more pictures at the LightHouse Ballet gallery.

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